Slim Man Cooks Caprese Salad

The Slim Folks

I was conceived on the Isle of Capri.  That’s what my Mom told me.  She would know…I hope!

Capri is an island off the coast of Italy.  I’ve never been there.  Well, I guess I was there once a long time ago, but not in my present form.

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, soon after my folks arrived from Capri.  Couldn’t they just have stayed on Capri for a couple decades?

My folks loved music.  My Dad liked blues and Dixieland jazz, my Mom loved everything.  When I say everything, I mean everything.  Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald, The Band, Dylan, Joan Baez, Hank Williams, Sr., The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Norah Jones, Anita Baker, Gladys Knight…I could go on and on.

I guess I just did.

My Mom turned me on to so many great artists.  She once took me to see Gladys Knight and the Pips, and I was floored.  The music, the dancing, the songs, her voice…amazing.

My Mom was the one who encouraged me, pointed me in the right musical direction.  She never bought me anything.  I mean, she bought me clothes and food and stuff.  She’d have been arrested if she hadn’t.  She worked really hard, but never had a lot of money.

So I always bought my own instruments.  I worked, I saved, I bought a guitar.  I worked, I saved, I bought a bass.

For the first six years of my life, we lived with my Dad’s Mom, Angela.  We lived in the basement of her house in Baltimore.  I wrote my first song in that basement…it wasn’t much of a seller.

We moved into a house a couple miles away on Rosebank Avenue.  It was a great old house, what they call a “fixer-upper.”  It had an upright piano in the dining room.  The previous owners had built the room around the piano, and when they moved, they couldn’t get it out.  So they left it there.  Lucky me.

I fixed it up.  It, too, was a fixer-upper.  I took the piano apart.  I painted it black.  I replaced the keys with new ones.  I put it back together.

I was already taking trumpet lessons.  Once a week, my Mom would take me down Greenmount Avenue, and I’d study trumpet with Mr. John at a place called Freitag’s.  I absolutely loved Herb Alpert, and made him do all the duets with me.

I used to read comic books.  In the back, they had these advertisements for seeds.  No, it wasn’t marijuana seeds.  It was vegetable seeds.  You could send away for seeds, sell them to your neighbors, and after you sold a certain amount, you could redeem your points for prizes.

One of which was a guitar.  I learned how to play by ear.  It would have been a lot easier if I had used my hands…

So there I was, a little kid, playing guitar and piano and trumpet.  My Mom was the one who kept steering me in the right direction.  I can imagine all the horrible sounds that she had to put up with.  It ain’t fun listening to a kid practice.

She used to let my band practice in the basement.  My Mom was such a saint.  We weren’t any good when we started.  But we got better…and better.

Pretty soon, we were playing out.  My first gig was playing guitar and singing some Beatles songs at the sixth grade graduation.  I was in fifth grade.  Roland Park Elementary School.  Some of the happiest days of my life.

How did I get so miserable?

My first real band was called Momma Max.  We were doing a lot of original music—I always wanted to write songs—that sounded like Iggy Pop meets Alice Cooper.

And we looked like them, too.  Lord knows what my Mom was thinking.  But she just let me be me.  She had patience.  Somehow she knew I’d hit my stride.  It took a while!

My Mom was there through every phase.  She encouraged me to learn.  I went to Peabody Preparatory, a classical music school for kids.  After my regular school, I’d catch the bus downtown and go to Peabody.

I started asking my teachers to help me with my songs.  One of my teachers, Jack Thames, was a huge help.  He taught me all about chords, and structure.  I took private piano lessons from a jazz guy in the basement of his house.  Bob FIelds.  He showed me all the jazz chords.  I studied voice with a guy named Dan Moore.  He taught in the basement of a church close to the house on Rosebank.

I found the teachers, I learned what I needed to learn, I started writing songs, and going into the studio.  I started going to Manhattan, pitching my stuff, and finally caught a break.

When I got signed to Motown, my Mom was ecstatic.  One of the first songs I wrote for Motown was “Summer Days” which got recorded by Angela Bofill on her debut CD.  It got rave reviews, and did really well.

The success of that CD led Motown to offer me a recording contract.  So I started working on my first album.  My Mom could not have been more proud.

We were sitting around the dinner table one night, and the phone rang.  My sister answered it, and told me it was for me.

I talked for a while, and then came back to the table.  My sister asked me who it was.

“Stevie Wonder.”

I was working on a song, and needed to know the name of a percussion instrument Stevie had used on one of his songs.  So Stevie called me and told me.  It was a “cuica.”

I did the full album for Motown.  It took me a year.  I wrote string charts.  I wrote horn charts, chord charts.  I practiced bass and piano until I couldn’t practice anymore.  I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked.  My Mom was so supportive.

I went to a party at the Bronx Botanical Gardens for a release party for Stevie Wonder’s “Secret Life of Plants” CD.  I was waiting for a release date for my own CD.  We had already chosen the singles, and had mixed them at Motown’s new LA studio.

I was hanging out at this wonderful party, and went to the bathroom.  One of the Motown executives told me…

“Sorry to hear about your album.”

I asked him what he meant.

That’s when he told me that the album had been put on the shelf.  The VP in charge of my record had been let go, and so had all the projects he’d been working on, including mine.  Nice.

My CD is still sitting on a shelf somewhere at Motown.

I was devastated.  My Mom was such a big comfort.

But here’s the thing…Motown didn’t want to release me from my contract.  They didn’t want to put out the album, but they didn’t want anybody else to pick me up, either.

I was doing the same kind of music at Motown as I’m doing now.  It was like early Slim Man.  Slim Boy, if you will.

Then, I started writing really loud and angry rock songs.  I was trying to do anything to get out of my Motown contract.  It worked.

The guy downstairs from the Motown office in New York heard these songs.  He loved them.  He had a record company called Stiff Records.  They had Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Lena Lovitch, Elvis Costello…

Stiff Records suggested the name BootCamp.  I had these white suede boots I used to wear all the time.  A band was born…

Some other labels came calling.  We did some videos for a new network that was about to make its debut, a network called MTV.  BootCamp had two of the first hundred videos ever played on MTV.

BootCamp had a good run, about six years.  My Mom liked the band, and was proud of what we’d accomplished, but she always thought I should be doing what I started out doing…quiet, soulful, pop songs, sung low and slow.

So that’s what I did.   Slim Man was born!  Or reborn.  I was still writing rock songs for a guy named Brian Jack.  But I was also getting back to my Angela Bofill days…that laid-back, somnambulant Slim Sound.  The Slim SchnoozeFest!

When the first Slim Man CD was released, my Mom was there.  She was about the only on in the joint!  It was a roaring failure.  Nobody came out.  Well, sixteen people showed up.  I was convinced the CD was gonna sink like a stone in the sea.

But my Mom kept my spirits up, kept encouraging me.  The CD ended up going Top Ten for the year.  1995.  The Slim Man thing has done pretty well since then.  My Mom was a huge Slim Man fan.  She came out to almost every show.  Even in the snow, even when she was sick.

She had this horrible disease called Supra Nuclear Palsy.  Your motors shut down.  So it’s hard to move your mouth or tongue, it’s tough to chew, to swallow.  It was difficult for her to even close her eyes.  But her mind was still as sharp as ever.

You could show her a photograph from when she was a kid and she could tell you when and where.  It was difficult to understand what she was saying, because it was so tough for her to talk, but she knew.

The other thing about my Mom?  She never complained.  Not once did I hear her say, ”Why me?’  Not once.  I rarely say “never”, but I never heard her complain.

If that were me, I would have been screaming bloody murder.  Not my Mom.

I got an advance from a record company for a Bona Fide CD, and spent it on a TV and a stereo for my Mom.  All she could do was lie in bed and watch TV and listen to music.

She loved the Slim Man stuff.  She knew every song.

I once did a cruise.  A German record company organized it.  I flew to Germany, and practiced with the band.  Then we flew to Jamaica, and got on the cruise ship.  We were going to cruise the Caribbean, then cross the Atlantic, and cruise the Mediterranean.

Not a bad gig.

The first night on the ship was a night off.  I had dinner at the incredibly huge buffet, and then nestled into my tiny little cabin.

Early the next morning I got the phone call.

My Mom had died.  I was crushed.  I couldn’t stop sobbing.  The Germans, they are a pretty stoic bunch.  I guess they must have been pretty concerned about me, because they had me off that ship within hours.  I took a small boat to a small airport on a small island.

How small?  The airport had no walls.  Just an old tin roof.  They did have a small sound system.  I was listening to the music, trying to make sense of what had just happened, when a song of mine came over the tiny PA.

How that happened, in that little airport, on that tiny island in the Caribbean, I’ll never know.  The song was “Night Like This.”

I picked up my cell phone and called the first person I always called when something like that happened.  My Mom.

Except she was gone.

Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese, that’s what the Eye-Talians call it.

It’s my favorite salad.  Yes, I was conceived on the Isle of Capri, where this recipe comes from, so I am partial.

But this salad is so quick and easy and delicious.

There is only ONE THING you have to remember.

Every ingredient has to be the best.

The tomatoes have to be ripe and luscious.  The olive oil has to be extra virgin, or at least one that hasn’t been pole-dancing at the club every night.

And this would be a good time to splurge for bufala mozzarella.  Yes, it’s expensive.  But it’s really, really good.  Take out a second mortgage, if you haven’t already.  Break open the kids’ piggy bank.  This is the one time to dig deep and fork it over.

Bufala mozzarella comes from water buffalos.  When my Uncle Oscar told me this the first time, I didn’t believe him.  Water buffalos?  Where the hell are they keeping these animals?  I’ve seen dairy farms.  I’ve seen cows and goats and sheep.

But I’ve never seen a water buffalo.  Not in the USA.  Not anywhere.  The first time I saw a photo, I was intrigued.  How do you milk a water buffalo?  Who knows.  Maybe that’s why it’s so expensive.  But I love the mozzarella that comes from those crazy-looking beasts.

I used organic heirloom tomatoes.  They weren’t expensive, and they were so fresh and ripe and colorful and tasted like heaven.

Some people use balsamic vinegar as well as olive oil on their Caprese salad.

I prefer using just olive oil.  But what the hell do I know?

Ingredients

2 or 3 heirloom tomatoes, or fresh vine-ripened tomatoes

1 large ball of mozzarella—I suggest bufala—about a pound

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh basil, a handful

Here we go…

Slice the tomatoes into circular slices, about a ¼ inch thick.

Slice the mozzarella the same way.

Grab a small flat plate.  We’re going to make individual servings.  Put a slice of tomato flat on the plate.  Put a slice of mozzarella on top.

Grab another slice of tomato, preferably a different color.  Lay it on top of the first slice of mozzarella.  Put a slice of mozzarella on top of the second slice of tomato.

One more time!  Grab a slice of tomato, lay it down, pit a slice of mozzarella on top.

If my math is correct, you’ll have three slices of each.

Drizzle some olive oil on top.

Add some salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Grab some basil leaves and a pair of scissors.  Snip some basil right on top of the tomatoes and mozzarella.

Make as many individual plates as you can, this usually serves four.  Unless you’re in my family…this would feed one of those monsters.

Serve with some crusty bread, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Spinach with Toasted Almonds and Raisins

A lot of people ask me to sing at their weddings.

“Can you sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ as we walk down the aisle?”

My answer is usually…

Yes.  Yes I can.

A couple years ago, a young gal from Baltimore asked me to sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ at her wedding.  She had no budget.

I told her…”I can do it.  But if Lady GaGa asks me to open up for her that day; or if David Letterman calls me at the last minute to do the Late Show, I won’t be able to.  If you can live with that, yes.  Yes I can.”

The week before her wedding, as hard as it is to believe, Lady GaGa did not call.  David Letterman did not appear on my doorstep.

So I told her yes.  She was so ecstatic.  Ever since she saw me sit down at the piano and sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ at a concert in Annapolis, it had been her dream for me to sing that song at her wedding.  Just me and the piano.  Yes I can!

I was thinking…I could walk in, sing “End of the Rainbow” and then get back to packing.

Packing?  Yes.  I was moving.  The day after her wedding, I was leaving Baltimore to move to Nashville.  A permanent move.  A big move.  I needed to pack everything I owned.  The wedding was on a Saturday.  I was leaving Sunday.  I didn’t mention My Big Move to the bride to be.  I figured she had enough on her mind.

We were talking on the phone about the details when she said…

“You need to be on the boat by 11:00 AM.”

Boat?  Did she say boat?  Yes.  The wedding was a cruise around Baltimore…for 5 hours.  We would be out to sea the whole time, and there was no leaving the boat.  The thoughts that were running through my mind…maybe I could have someone pick me up on a Jet Ski after my song.  Maybe I could leap on to a passing barge.  Or borrow an inflatable boat, bring it on board with me.

I’m not a big boat guy.  I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and say, “Damn!  I wish I were on a boat right now.”

My Dad had a small fishing boat, a 17-footer with an egg-beater on the back.  That was fun.  But a big boat out on the open sea makes me a bit woozy.  If I can see the horizon, I’m OK.  Once I lose track, I’m grabbing the rails.

I told the Bride of Baltimore that I’d be on the Love Boat bright and early.

That Saturday, I jumped in the Slim Vehicle, and drove to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.  I parked my car, and walked a few blocks down to the water.  I had on my beige Hugo Boss suit and my brown suede Donald J. Pliner loafers.  Gotta dress big for a wedding!  I saw some folks boarding a small cruise ship—it held maybe 200 people.  I got on the boat at 11:00 AM.

I love weddings.  It’s such a happy time.  Of course, fast-forward a few years, and the bride and groom are sleeping in separate beds.  His in Baltimore, hers in DC.

When I’m singing at a wedding where I don’t know anybody…that’s a lot of fun.  Watching strangers go nuts at a wedding is fun.  Watching your own family go nuts at a wedding is enough to make you want to grab a dart gun and shoot somebody in the neck.

Me on the Love Boat

The Love Boat was all decked out in flowers and ribbons.  It was a beautiful spring day.  The sun was out, it was warm–but not too–and there was a slight breeze.  They had the ceremony on the top deck.  They exchanged their vows, walked downstairs…

And there I was…sitting at the piano.  I sang “End of the Rainbow.”

After I finished, people were crying.

They were crying…”Don’t give up your day job, Donkey Face!”

After I sang, I guess people needed alcohol.  My music usually drives people to drink.  Folks were lining up at the bar.  I knew a couple people at the wedding.  After cocktails, it was dinner time.  I sat next to Annabelle.  I’ve known her for years.  Annabelle is a joy.  She is one happy woman.

Annabelle is married to one of my bestest amigos.  They haven’t been together for ten years, but they never got divorced.  They get along now better than they ever did.  They’re the best of friends.

Annabelle and I used to work together at a dive bar in Fells Point called the Horse You Came In On.  People in Baltimore go to Fells Point to drink.  She tended bar, I sang the blues.  My band was called the Scrappy Harris Blues Band.  No one in the band was named Scrappy Harris.

Scrappy Harris was the barback at The Horse.  He looked like a skinny little homeless kid.  He smoked Marlboro Reds, drank Budweiser and was loud and boisterous.  Scrappy had a small apartment nearby that looked like a flophouse.  Bare mattress on the floor.  Old sheets nailed over the windows.  But Scrappy wasn’t poor.  It turns out he was a trust fund kid.  Had a ton of dough.  He just liked being a barback, getting ice, stocking booze at The Horse You Came In On.

We named the band after Scrappy.  I wrote a song about him.  I also wrote a song about Annabelle.

“Annabelle…my sweet Annabelle, I’m going down to the wishing well…wish for a girl like Annabelle.”

Annabelle and I had a blast at the wedding.  After dinner, a band played.  The guitar player was amazing, in a Stevie Ray Vaughan kinda way.  I got up and sang “Pride and Joy.”  The band was really good.  Really good.

At the end of the shindig, Rob Fahey got up and sang “Raised on the Radio.”  Rob was in a great Baltimore band called The Ravyns.  That song was a big hit for them.  It was used in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” with Sean Penn.

Rob sang his heart out.  What a way to end the wedding.

The Love Boat pulled ashore.  I said goodbye to Annabelle.  I walked up to the bride and groom.

They handed me an envelope.  Inside was a gift certificate for way too much money for my favorite Italian restaurant in Baltimore.

La Scala.

I had told them I would sing for free.  I’m a great guy, ain’t I?  The gift certificate was unexpected, but much appreciated.  And very thoughtful.

I said my goodbyes, and started walking from the Inner Harbor to the parking lot.  On the way, a pickup truck drove by, splashed through a puddle, and splattered mud all over my suit and shoes.  It looked like…well, you can imagine.  Tan suit.  Dark brown mud.

I was getting strange looks as I walked back to my car.

I went home, changed, and walked Batu.  Then I went to sleep.  The next day Slim Drummer John E Coale came over in his SUV.  We packed up everything into our two cars, and drove seven hundred miles to Nashville.

Batu was in the back of the car, his dog bed piled on top of all the boxes.

Goodbye, Baltimore.  Hello, Nashville

But wait!  There’s more!

I got an email the other day…

“Can you sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ as we walk down the aisle for our wedding?  That song has been our song ever since we met.”

He told me he was getting married Labor Day in Palm Springs.  I’ve been staying in Palm Springs for the past few months.  I wrote back and told him the same thing I told the Bride of Baltimore—if Lady GaGa calls at the last minute, I’d have to bow out.  He took it as a “yes.”

He was so excited.  He wrote me back and told me he was going to keep it a secret.  He wanted it to be a surprise for his partner, Jack.

Jack.

Spinach with Toasted Almonds and Raisins

A few things about this dish…

I used multi-colored organic grape tomatoes.  Why?

I saw them in the grocery store.  They looked real cool and colorful.  And they were inexpensive.

You can buy almonds already toasted.  But I like to toast my own nuts.  I used raw almonds, and toasted them in a dry pan over medium-high heat.  Do not leave your nuts unattended.  Nothing worse than burnt nuts.

I only cook the tomatoes for a just a couple minutes, you don’t want them to lose their shape or their skin.

And only cook the spinach for a couple minutes, just enough to wilt it.

Add the almonds and raisins last.  Because you don’t want your nuts getting soggy, and you don’t want the raisins to absorb all the sauce.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

Crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1/3 cup white wine

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half, guts and seeds squeezed out

8 ounces of baby spinach (I used organic)

2 tablespoons of raw almonds, chopped

1 tablespoon raisins

Salt to taste

HERE WE GO…

First of all, let’s toast our nuts.

“Here’s to you, nuts!”

Get a small saute pan.

Put the heat on medium-high.

Grab your nuts, put them in the pan.

Shake your nuts around until they’re golden brown.

Put your toasted almonds on a plate.  Let ‘em cool…

Put the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add the 2 tablespoons shallots.

Add crushed red pepper to taste.

Cook for 2 minutes or so, stir every now and then.

When the shallots are almost clear, add the white wine, turn the heat to high, and let it cook off for 2 minutes or so.

Turn the heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Add the spinach, cook for 2 minutes, stir it up!

Add the toasted almonds.

Add the raisins.

Give it a stir.

Serve it up!

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

3, 059 days.

That’s how long I had Batu.  He arrived from Chile on Christmas Eve, 2005, and departed from Palm Springs on May 11, 2014.

Exactly 3, 059 days.

In some ways it seems like a long time.  But right now, it doesn’t seem nearly long enough.

Batu was born on Cinco de Mayo–the 5th of May–2004.  He was born in Argentina.  Batu’s grandfather was a famous bull terrier from Germany named Rock.   Batu’s owner paid $15,000 for Rock.   He could’ve bought a car for fifteen grand.

I’m glad he didn’t.  But that’s a lot of money for a dog.

So Batu’s owner had high hopes for the young pup.  He was hoping Batu would be a champion show dog, maybe show him a little return on his investment.  Batu was entered in a few South American dog shows, but there was some technical defect in his bone structure, which prevented him from advancing any further in his show dog career.

Their loss.

Batu was a neglected champion, much like Yours Truly.  He was kept in a crate.  No one knew what to do with him.  Kinda like me…

I had wanted a bull terrier ever since I saw the movie Patton.  Patton had a bull terrier named Willie.  When my cousin–a true dog lover who knew I wanted a bull terrier–found out about Batu, she decided to get him for me for Christmas.

She has a house in Chile.  She’s well-connected in the dog world down there.  She left Baltimore, flew down, rescued Batu, and brought him to me on Christmas Eve, 2005.  I was at my Uncle’s house on Cat Tail Creek, outside Baltimore, Maryland.  USA.

Batu and my cousin, Christmas Eve, 2005, Batu’s First Night

Batu came out of the bedroom that Christmas Eve, walked up to me, and stuck to me like Velcro.  He found me, and I found him.  He stayed by my side for almost every one of those 3,059 days.

Batu came with that name.  I don’t know how he got it.  So I Googled Batu and all that came up was the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Batu Khan.  So that’s the story I’m going with.

At the time, I was living in a basement apartment in Roland Park.  It was an incredible place in an old mansion that used to be a country club.  The woman who lived upstairs was 100 years old.  The apartment downstairs had three bowling alleys—a bit dilapidated—off to the side.  There was a huge back porch, which overlooked two grass tennis courts, both of which had seen better days.

I loved the place.  When I brought Batu home that Christmas Eve, he would not leave my side.  If I walked into the kitchen, he’d follow me.  If I walked into the living room, he’d be right behind me.  If I went into the bathroom, he had to go with me.

The first few nights I had Batu, he slept in bed with me.  But when I found a tick on the bedspread one morning, I decided to get him his own bed.  I put it by my bedside, and that’s where he slept.  If I woke up in the middle of the night, I would reach down and pet him.  For most of his life, he was always within reach.

I think Batu had separation anxiety.  So I took him just about everywhere I went.  If I went to a recording studio to do a CD, I’d call in advance and make sure it was OK if Batu came along.  DC, Philly, New York—if I had a session, Batu went with me.

If I went on vacation, Batu went with me.  If I went to visit my Dad in upstate New York, Batu went with me.

Whenever I’d sit down and play piano or guitar, Batu was there.  Almost every song I wrote, Batu was at my feet.  Whenever I’d play music, he’d close his eyes halfway, and get this look of bliss on his face.

Unlike most people who listen to my music.

The apartment in Roland Park had a crazy little kitchen with a small four-burner stove.  I had just got a video camera, and I started shooting cooking videos; short, goofy little 5-minute home movies, that featured Batu.

I had heard about this thing called YouTube that had just started a few months before.  I started posting the cooking videos on YouTube.  One of my five or six fans saw the videos, and brought them to the attention of their friend who was involved in a new network, the Italian American Network.

They liked the videos.  They loved Batu.  The Italian American Network started posting the videos on their channel.  They encouraged me to do more.  So, Batu and I kept on making cooking videos in that little kitchen.

My cousin also has an apartment in Manhattan.  Batu and I would drive up to New York City when she wasn’t staying there, and we’d do videos in her kitchen.  It was an amazing kitchen.  Batu and I would stay for a couple months, and shoot cooking videos for the Italian American Network.

The VP even came to the apartment to meet Batu.

After our first batch of New York cooking videos, we drove back to Baltimore, to the apartment in Roland Park.  One day I let him out back like I’d done a thousand times before…

He didn’t come back.  As night fell, I was in a total panic.  I made posters, I put them up all around the neighborhood.  I rode around on my bike, calling his name, all day and all night.  I visited and called every dog shelter, SPCA, vet, and animal hospital I could think of.  I called pet psychics.  I called pet detectives.  I walked around, handing out flyers.

I had just had double hernia surgery right before Batu bolted.  I didn’t care.  They could have chopped off my arms and legs and I would still have gone looking for Batu.

One day turned into two.  Someone called, told me they found my number on his collar.  I was ecstatic…until they told me they’d found the collar—without Batu attached to it– in the parking lot of a grocery store about two miles away.  I kept up my search.

From the mansions of Roland Park to the crackhouses on York Road, I rode my bike, calling Batu’s name, handing out flyers.  I’m surprised I didn’t get shot.  I didn’t care.  I wanted Batu back.

I called a friend who was a meteorologist on a local TV station.  He put out the word on his Sunday morning show.  People started calling, telling me they’d seen him.  I’d race over.

No luck, time after time.  A couple of wonderful women called me up, and offered to help.

We’d search in shifts.  It was the middle of the summer.  It was in the heart of Baltimore City; traffic, heat, no food, no water, and none of the medications that he needed.

I didn’t give up hope.  I got a call on the eighth night; someone had seen Batu in their backyard.  I raced over.  I saw him, called his name, and he bolted.  I chased after him, but couldn’t find him.  I looked all night and into the dawn.

I posted more signs, everywhere.

The next day, I got a call from a Baltimore City Councilwoman, said she’d seen Batu in a neighbor’s yard.  I drove like a maniac, and there he was.  Behind a wrought iron fence that was bolted shut.  How he got in, I have no idea.  The owners of the house were on vacation.

I scooped him up.  He ate the whole box of dog biscuits I had in the front seat.  He had been gone nine days.  Finding him was a miracle.

Batu spent a couple days in Intensive Care.  It cost more than three thousand dollars.  My cousin paid the bill.   How sweet.

It wasn’t the first time Batu cheated death.

Batu and I were at my Dad’s house in upstate New York on the Fourth of July, 2009. It had just rained, and there was a double rainbow reaching across the mountains.  I took a photo.

I walked inside my Dad’s house.  The phone rang.  My Dad lives on top of a mountain, a place called Rat Tail Ridge, and there aren’t too many neighbors.  And the phone doesn’t ring too often.

I picked up the phone.  I got the news that his only brother had died.  I told my Dad.

My Dad said “Fuck!” about a hundred times in a row.  Then he cried.  I’ve only seen my Dad cry twice.  When his best friend died, and when his only brother died.

Unc—that’s what I called him–had fallen down the basement steps and died immediately.  He was extremely wealthy, in good health, had a beautiful young wife…He was 88 years old.  My Uncle and I were real close.  I had lived with Unc for a couple years.

I packed up Batu and my Dad, and we drove for six hours from Rat Tail Ridge down to Cat Tail Creek, my uncle’s house.  We didn’t talk much.  I was heartbroken.  So was my Dad.  Unc was like the Godfather—our world seemed to revolve around him.  My cousin–his daughter–was crushed.  Unc was an amazing guy.

After the funeral, there was a wake at Unc’s house on Cat Tail Creek.  The next day, I took off for a show in San Antonio.

I left Batu with the family.  They knew him, loved him, and I knew he would get more than enough attention.  Everybody loved Batu.

When I landed in Texas, I got a frantic phone call…

“We were crabbing!  We put a chicken neck on the end of a string and threw it in the river!  Batu jumped in after it!”

Batu can’t swim.  Bull terriers can’t swim.  They sink.

“And Batu sank!  We all jumped off the pier, right into the river!  Clothes, wallets, cell phones…we couldn’t see him!  We were following the trail of bubbles!  Oh, my God!  It was so scary!  We couldn’t find him!  But we finally dug down and found him and fished him out!  He’s OK! “

It was my sister on the phone.  Batu had survived.  But he could very easily have gone on to Doggie Heaven.

That was the second time Batu escaped death.

Batu was an amazing dog.  But I never thought of him as a dog.  To me, he was more like a funny little man in a dog suit.  A lot of people told me I looked like him.

I took it as a compliment…

Come to think of it…Batu was bow-legged, and so am I.  He had a huge head, a big nose and squinty eyes, just like me.  He had huge feet, like Yours Truly.  Batu liked to dress in black and white.  Me, too.

Batu liked bananas, apples and cantaloupe.  He loved French fries.  When we were on the road, I couldn’t leave him in the car, so I’d go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and get him French fries, and feed them to him, one by one.

Batu had a bark that would make you jump five feet straight up in the air—it was loud and sharp and startling.

But he didn’t bark much.  He was a very calm, laid-back mutt.  Not much bothered him.  When we would walk the streets of Manhattan, there was so much noise–trucks, sirens, car horns, brakes screeching.  Batu never flinched.  I could have fired a gun next to his head and he wouldn’t have blinked an eye.  Batu was cool.

Batu had a sense of humor, he liked to play.  He was funny.  He was photogenic.  When I pulled out the camera he’d look right at it.

Batu loved to ride in the car.  To the post office, or to New York City, he was all-in.

I’d throw his bed in the back of the car, and I’d have to lift all seventy pounds of him into the car.  Then we’d take off.  It’s funny; I guess he never knew if we were going a mile away, or a thousand miles away.  He was just happy to be along for the ride.  He would lie there for hours and hours and not make a sound.

I’d have to reach back and shake him just to make sure he was alive.

We moved out of the apartment in Roland Park when the woman upstairs died.  She was 103.  Batu and I moved into another apartment right down the street.  It was more like a Mafia hideout than an apartment.

In 2011, Batu and I packed up the Slimousine and moved to Nashville.  I wanted to re-pot the plant.  Wipe the slate clean.  So we drove to Tennessee.  Eleven hours.  Seven hundred miles.

I love Nashville.  But after we got there, Batu’s skin problems started getting worse.  He’d always had skin problems.  Batu had been to more vets in more states than any one dog I had ever known.  But in Nashville, Batu’s skin got so much worse.

How bad?  At one point, I took him to the vet and asked him if we should put Batu down.  He had sores on his feet so bad he couldn’t walk.  Sores on his elbows, his back, his chest, even his face.

It was disgusting.  I called specialists all over the country.  I was desperate to find a cure.  It looked hopeless.

So I took Batu to his vet in Nashville, thinking it might be time to let him go.  I told the vet that if we had to put Batu down, he might as well put me down, too.  Maybe I could get a twofer…

Batu was so miserable.  So was I.  The vet then suggested we put Batu on every dog medication known to man, and if it didn’t kill him, maybe he’d get better.

So we put poor ol’ Batu on antifungals, antibiotics, prednisone…I changed his diet to an incredibly expensive hypoallergenic dog food.  I gave him baths a couple times a week with ridiculously expensive medicated shampoo that I had to leave on for 15 minutes at a time.

And Batu got better.  We started eliminating drugs, and after a few weeks, Batu was almost back to normal.

So Batu fought the Grim Reaper three times and won.  It was pretty miraculous.

Once a month, Batu and I would drive from Nashville back to Baltimore.  My Dad had moved from upstate New York to Annapolis.  The place upstate was too isolated and hard to maintain, with all the snow in the winter, and all that grass to mow in the summer.

Soon after my Dad moved, he fell and broke his hip.  The doctors placed him in a hospice.  I explained to the people in the hospice how much my Dad loved Batu.  To my surprise, they let me take Batu up to my Dad’s room.  My Dad would always brighten up when Batu arrived.

When my Dad passed away, Batu was by my side at the hospice.  I took a photo right after the nurse walked out of the room and gave us the news.

A year later, in December 2013, I left Nashville with Batu, and we drove to Breckenridge. Breckenridge is a charming and lovely ski resort, with a vibe like an old Western mountain town.  My brother had rented a place there for Christmas so the family could be together and hang out for a week or so.

I took a jar of my Dad’s ashes with me.

We drank absinthe one night.  Absinthe is what Vincent Van Gogh drank too much of when he cut his own ear off and gave it to a prostitute.

We didn’t get quite that nuts, but when we got back to the apartment, we started cooking Christmas dinner, and somebody knocked the jar of my Dad’s ashes off the top of the fridg and they shattered on the floor.

We looked down in silence.  And then we started laughing.  I know my Dad would have appreciated the craziness of it all.  We swept up the ashes and the broken glass into a dustpan, and walked outside.  It was six degrees.  We scattered the glass and ashes and dust into the cold and snowy night.

Batu was there, right by my side.

The next afternoon I was sitting on the couch with Batu.  I was reading the contract for the apartment, when I noticed that they had a huge notice:

WE DO NOT ALLOW PETS.

It was a hundred-dollar-a-day fine if they caught you with a pet.

So, for the next couple days, I kept Batu on the QT, the Down-Low and the Hush-Hush.

We checked out right before New Year’s Eve.  My brother and his family left first, around 9:00 AM.  Check out time was 10:00 AM.  At about 10:10, I was getting ready to make my first trip to the car, when I heard a loud knock on the door.

“CHECK OUT TIME IS 10!”

Batu started barking.  The guy knocked again.  Batu barked again, louder.

I grabbed Batu, went out to the balcony and threw him over the railing, into a snowdrift.  Before you call the SPCA, keep in mind I was on the first floor.  I tossed his dog bed over the railing, too.

I picked Batu up out of the snow, grabbed the bed, and ran to the car.  I threw the bed in, put Batu on top, and ran back to the apartment balcony.  I jumped the railing and made a mad dash to the front door.

The guy walked in, looked around, and didn’t say a word.  He checked out the apartment.  Then he walked out and walked down the hall.  I packed the rest of the stuff in the car and took off.  We never got fined.

Batu and I drove to Scottsdale, Arizona, stayed for New Year’s Eve, and then drove to Palm Springs, California.  On the way to Palm Springs, we passed the General Patton Museum.  We stopped by the statue of Patton and Willie.

The first four months of 2014, were the healthiest and happiest days of Batu’s life.  All of his skin problems disappeared—it must have been the climate.  I put him on a diet.  He lost 9 pounds.  He was in the best shape of his life.  Batu seemed to flourish in Palm Springs.

Batu had only one health problem remaining.  He had an enlarged heart.  Batu would pass out occasionally, drop to the ground like a ton of bricks.  It was always very scary.  But he always came back.

Batu turned 10 on the Cinco de Mayo, 2014.  He never looked better.

On Mother’s Day, I left for a concert in San Diego.  When I left Batu with the dog-sitter, all was great.

I did the show that night at Humphrey’s, a cool little club on the bay.  That night was one of the happier ones in a long time.  I had just done a really good show, Batu was doing great, all was good in SlimLand.

The next morning I got a text from the dog sitter.  I called her, and she told me Batu had fallen asleep the night before–Mother’s Day, May 11th–and never woke up.

I drove from San Diego to Palm Springs.  Three of the longest hours of my life.

I walked in, and Batu was lying on the kitchen floor.  I scooped him up, and put him in the car as I’d done so many thousands of times before…

And I drove him to the vet to get cremated.  When they took him out of the car, and walked away, you would have thought that everybody I had ever loved had just gone down on the Titanic.

3, 059 days.

Seems like a long time.  But it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese

I started this cookbook when Batu and I started making cooking videos for the Italian American Network.  It was early 2006.

I finished the cookbook with this recipe.  May 3, 2014.  Batu passed away the week after.

Batu’s photos appear in almost every recipe in this cookbook.  Why?  Because he was in the kitchen with me all the time.  He would lay his big schnozzola on my feet, or in between my legs as I stood at the stove.

I miss the little fella.  Who loves ya, Batu?

I don’t like wasting food.  If I’ve got leftovers in the fridg, as long as they don’t have anything growing on them, I’ll eat ‘em.

I had some goat cheese that was…on the cusp, so to speak.  I took a sniff, and it smelled good.

But I knew I’d need to use it soon, so I came up with this brilliant idea…

Mix it with some scallion and red pepper and make a little stuffing for the chicken breasts I had that were about to expire.

The dinner was actually delizioso.

No one got sick, and no one died.  That’s my definition of success in cooking.

A couple things…

Before the lawsuits start flying in, always remember to check the expiration dates on stuff.  Your nose knows.  Take a schniff…when in doubt, throw it out.

My brother once made a hot dog, and as he was eating it, I noticed the bottom of the roll was all moldy and green.  It was pretty funny…until that night when he threw up in the drawer of the bedside table that we shared.

It’s important to check stuff before you stuff your face.

Whenever you handle raw chicken, make sure you clean everything it touches really well.  Use hot water and soap and a pressure washer.  Don’t lick raw chicken.  Sounds like a good blues song…

As with any recipe, if you don’t like an ingredient, leave it out, or substitute.

You guys are smart.  With incredibly good taste, I might add.  You can do this.

INGREDIENTS

¾ cup goat cheese

1 tablespoon chopped scallion—the middle part only

1 tablespoon minced red bell pepper

3 chicken breasts, sliced thin (about ¼ inch thick)

3 slices prosciutto

Flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Here we go…

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Now let’s make our stuffing…

Put the goat cheese in a small bowl.

Add the scallion and red pepper.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mick ‘em up.

Set aside.  Let’s make some chicken!

Put your breasts on a plate.  Then put your chicken breasts on a separate plate.  Notice the difference…

Put a slice of prosciutto—one layer—on half the chicken breast.

Put a couple tablespoons of the goat cheese mixture on top of the prosciutto.

Fold the breast over, in half.

Do this with all three of your breasts.

Put some flour on a plate, about 1/3 cup.  Add some salt and pepper, mix.

Grab a breast.

Place it on the flour.

Turn it over, so both sides have been dusted with flour.

Do this with all the chicken.

Get a sauté pan, put it over medium high heat.

Add the butter and olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the three chicken breasts.

Cook for 4 minutes.

Turn ‘em over, cook on the other side for 4 minutes.

Put them in a baking dish, and place in the oven for 5 minutes.

Pull ‘em out, check for doneness.

If they’re not done, put ‘em back in the oven for a few more minutes.

When the chicken breasts are done, plate ‘em up!

I did roasted beets with carrots as a side dish, along with some risotto.

MANGIAMO!!!!!

Slim Man’s Cod Pieces

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

We recorded the first Slim Man CD at Cowboy Pickles.

Cowboy has a recording studio outside Washington, D.C.  It’s a studio, yes.  But it’s really just a small spare room, in his humble home that’s close to the University of Maryland.

The room is about 20 feet long and 15 feet wide.  It is stacked, floor-to-ceiling with audio equipment—old, new and everything in-between.

Cowboy has never gotten rid of anything.  Fender Rhodes electric pianos, old Hammond B3 organs, Hohner Clavinets, Mini-Moogs, Commodore 64 computers, old JBL speakers, amplifiers, cassette recorders, 8 track tape machines…every microphone, guitar, keyboard he’s ever bought, he still owns.  Some of it is junk.  Some of it is priceless.

Cowboy has an old rifle by the studio door—the kind you might see in an old Western movie.  He has an ax–a big ax–by his toilet, as if he were expecting some crazed Meth-Head to come crashing through his bathroom window.

Walking through the studio is like walking through a small maze.  One false move and a wall of junk might fall on you and bust your cranium.

Can you spot the rifle?

Batu loves Cowboy Pickles’ studio.  He lays down on the floor and listens to the music, eyes half-closed like he’s in a state of bliss.

The Pickles Compound is near a railroad track.  It’s close to a small airport.  And it’s so close to the University of Maryland that you can hear the marching band rehearsing in the distance.

Recording vocals was a challenge.  The timing had to be just right or else the microphone would pick up all those noises…planes taking off, trains passing by.  And the air conditioner had to be shut off or else the mic would pick up the hum.  Which wasn’t bad in winter.  But in the dead of summer, when it’s 90 degrees and 90% humidity, it was hot as hell without AC.

We did most of our recording in the summer.  Cowboy Pickles is a music teacher–he gives private piano and guitar lessons.  And when his students went on summer vacation, we’d have a lot of time to record.

Whenever we got ready to do vocals, we’d shut off the AC.  Then we’d open the windows and listen for…planes, trains, marching bands, lawn mowers, dogs barking.

If all was quiet on the Eastern Front, we’d record.

Sometimes, we’d get a great vocal take.  But when we’d listen back to the track all by itself, we’d sometimes hear a plane landing.  Or a train going by.  Or a car horn.

Birds chirping was OK.  I kinda liked the way it sounded.

But a marching band…unless it was somehow miraculously in time with the song we were working on, we’d have to start all over.  Any time there was an open microphone—vocals, sax, etc., we had to listen closely for all kinds of extraneous noises.

Most of them we caught.  Some we didn’t…

We were mixing a song called Shelter From A Storm.  Mixing is the final part of the process where you determine the volume and tone of the tracks you’ve recorded.  We were listening to the song, and I heard the phone ring…

“Answer the phone!”

Cowboy picked up the phone.  No one there.

We went back to mixing the song.  I heard the phone ring again.

“Answer the phone!”

No one there.  It happened a third time.  We stopped mixing.  We took a listen to my vocal track.  We listened to it ‘solo’, which means…all by itself.

And sure enough, there was a phone ringing on the vocal track.  Plain as day.   In one spot, you could hear…

RRRRRRRRing!

So we had a decision to make.  Start all over…re-record the whole vocal track.  Or just leave it in.  We left it in.

So…if you’re listening to the first Slim Man CD, and you hear a phone ringing…don’t answer it!

When the CD was finished, we had a CD release party and concert at a club in downtown Baltimore.  We invited every newspaper, magazine, reporter, TV station, radio station–we invited everybody.  Anybody.

Nobody showed up.  I counted 16 people in a place that held 200.  I went home that night, and was about as down-low as you can go.  I was convinced the CD was gonna flop.

At that time, I was playing piano at a waterfront dive bar in Baltimore called “The Horse You Came In On”.  It’s one of the oldest bars in America.  I played Friday afternoons, mostly to a group of guys that called themselves “The Knuckleheads”.

They wore hats like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble used to wear to their lodge meetings–hats that looked like furry coneheads with steerhorns sticking out each side.

One Friday, the phone rang at the bar.  The bartender, Annabelle, answered it, listened, and then called out:

“Looks like you’re  number 27!”

I had no idea what she was talking about.  Neither did The Knuckleheads.  But apparently, the radio promoter I had hired was finally starting to get some interest.  I thought the CD was dead in the water.

The next week…

”You’re number 21!”

It continued to climb the charts, week by week.  It got all the way to #9.  Nationwide.

Cowboy Pickles on keys

So technically, it was a Top Ten Hit.  We started selling tons of CDs, we went out on tour, we played all over the US and Europe…

All from a little studio, in a spare room, next to an airport, near a train track and within earshot of a marching band.

Codfish Cakes

In Baltimore, where I spent most of my Slim Boyhood, almost every little grocery store had coddies–codfish cakes.  The two ingredients were codfish and mashed potatoes.  The coddies were displayed on a tray, along with Saltine crackers and plain yellow mustard.

I loved ‘em.

When codfish went on sale at the local grocery store near Slim’s Shady Trailer Park in Palm Springs, I thought it would be a great time to create my own codfish cake recipe.  I call my new creation…

Slim Man’s Cod Pieces

INGREDIENTS

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)

1 pound codfish filet, skinless, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper…to taste

6 cups water

1 egg

½ cup of panko breadcrumbs (I used Progresso Panko Italian Style)

Flour

HERE WE GO…

Get a large pot, put in 6 cups of water or so, put it on the highest heat ya gots.

Put the taters in the water.

When almost tender—it took mine about 10 minutes after the water came to a boil—add the fish cubes.  That’s right, put the fish right in the boiling water with the potatoes.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Drain in a colander.

Put the fish and the potatoes in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of butter, add salt and pepper, and mash coarsely.

Let it sit and cool as you…

Get a sauté pan and put it over medium heat.  I used a 10-inch pan.

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

When the butter starts to bubble, add the garlic and shallot.

Saute for 3 minutes until the shallots are clear and the garlic is pale gold.

Add the rosemary and stir a few times.

Cook for 2 minutes.

Take the shallot/garlic/rosemary mixture that’s in the pan and add it to the codfish and potatoes.

Mix it up, but keep it coarse.

Grab your egg, put it in a bowl, and beat it.

Add it to the codfish and taters, and mix.

Add the breadcrumbs and mix by hand.

If the mixture is too liquidy, add more breadcrumbs.

When the mixture feels right—not too liquidy, not too bready–make cakes.

I like my cakes about the size of a yo-yo.  This recipe yielded 8 codfish cakes.

Put ‘em on a plate.

Take the sauté pan that you used for the garlic/shallots/rosemary.

Put it over medium-high heat.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

As the oil heats up…

Get a flat plate, put some flour on it.

Lightly dredge each codfish cake in the flour.

When the olive oil is hot, put the cakes in the pan, and saute for 3 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

Flip ‘em over—be gentle–and cook on the other side for 3 minutes, until golden brown.

Place on paper towels when done.

Serve with spicy brown mustard, or plain old yellow mustard like we used to do in Bawlmer!

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!

 

Seared Scallops with Ginger and Garlic Glaze

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

I hid the marijuana brownies in the back of the refrigerator, and I had drawn a skull and crossbones on top of the aluminum foil, just to be sure no one would eat them.

I was a teenage idiot.  I did some stupid stuff when I was a teenager.

I’m still doing stupid stuff. But at least I don’t have any pimples.

As a teenager, it is required by law that you do the exact opposite of what your parents tell you to do.

Your parents tell you not to smoke pot, for instance.

My brother and I would invite our teenage friends over, and we’d hang out in the basement and play pool on an old pool table our Uncle Oscar gave us.  We’d get stoned with our friends, and we’d play music and shoot pool.

Then we’d play tricks on our friends.  My brother and I would give each other a wink, and one of us would sneak out of the house.

We’d go outside and move our friends’ cars.  Park ‘em down at the bottom of our dead-end street.  Then we’d sneak back into the basement.

When the party was over, our friends would leave, and my brother and I would wait until we heard the frantic knock on the basement door.

“Dude!  Where’s my car!  I can’t find it!  It’s my Dad’s!  He’s gonna kill me!”

My brother and I would let the terror go on for a few minutes, and then we’d laugh and tell them what we’d done.  Pretty stupid stuff.  Like I said, I was a teenage idiot.

I think the crest of my idiocy, the zenith of my moronosity came when I decided to make some pot brownies.  I put some pot in a blender, put in some brownie mix, and made brownies in the oven.

My brother and I each ate a piece.  We gave a piece to our sister.  We didn’t force her, she wanted one.  After an hour, my sister told us she didn’t feel anything.   She told us she wanted to eat another piece.  We didn’t think it was a good idea and told her so.  She did anyway.  Why?

Teenagers don’t listen.

A few hours later she was screaming that she’d never be the same.  She was freaking out, and she kept telling us she needed to go to the hospital.  It’s funny now.  It wasn’t real funny back then.

She finally calmed down, but it scared the shit out of us.

So that night, I put the brownies in some aluminum foil.  I put a skull and crossbones on them, and hid them in the back of the fridg.

The next morning I walked downstairs and saw the woman who cleaned our house eating a pot brownie with her morning coffee.

I yelled out her name.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and said…

“What?!?”

I thought for a quick minute, which is rare for a teenager.  Then I said…

“Nothing.  How are you?”

She gave me a funny look.  She’s a wonderful woman, has been a part of the family for years and years.   I’m still very close with her.

But if I told her that she had just eaten a pot brownie, she would have probably freaked out.  If I didn’t tell her, maybe she would just feel a little weird, and not think much about it.

My Dad used to tell me…”Nobody gets in trouble by keeping their mouth shut.”

So I said nothing.  And nothing happened.  She didn’t jump out of a window, or run down the street tearing her hair out, or join the circus.

But it did take her a bit longer to clean the house that day.

I threw the brownies in the trash.

I guess I was starting to grow out of my teenage idiocy period.  I’m now in my adult idiocy period…

Seared Scallops with Ginger and Garlic Glaze

Scallops are one of my favorite things to eat.  Why are they so effing expensive?

I have seen them as high as $30 a pound.  And I’ve seen them as low as $14 a pound.

Buy low.

When you sear scallops, it’s real important to use dry scallops.  These are scallops that have not been injected with water and chemicals.

So make sure you use dry scallops—it’s almost impossible to sear wet scallops, because the liquid they throw off screws up the searing process.

When you talk to your fish guy at the market, make sure he knows you want dry scallops.

Searing is one of my favorite things to do with seafood.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s inexpensive.

After you sear a scallop or a piece of fish, you can eat it just like that.  Or you can add a glaze.

This glaze is made of garlic and ginger and honey.  A glaze is something you put on after you cook.  A marinade is something you put on before you cook—usually for a couple hours or overnight.

I figure on three scallops per person.  If you serve two scallops, people will think you’re cheap.  If you serve four, you’ll need to take out a loan.

In this recipe, I seared 6 scallops, perfect for a nice romantic dinner for two.

Me and Batu!

The recipe below has enough glaze for 12 scallops.  I used half…

One last thing!  Scallops have a little muscle on the side.  Peel it off and toss.

INGREDIENTS

The Glaze

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

¼ cup of soy sauce

¼ cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons of honey

The Scallops

6 large dry sea scallops, side muscle removed

Salt and pepper

Turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

The Salad

Arugula

Baby spinach

Here we go…

Take all of the glaze ingredients, put them in a bowl, and whisk, whisk, whisk.

Put half of the glaze in a small pot over medium-low heat.  Save the rest of the glaze for next time!  Let the glaze reduce a little bit as we cook our scallops.

Sprinkle the top of each scallop with JUST A LITTLE sugar, some Kosher salt, and some fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a medium-size sauté pan.  Put the heat on medium-high.

Put a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan.

When the butter starts to turn brown and smoke, put the scallops in the pan—seasoned side down.

Saute for 2 minutes.  As the scallops sauté, sprinkle the top side of each scallop with JUST A  LITTLE salt, sugar and pepper.

When the scallops have sautéed for 2 minutes, turn ‘em over—using tongs—and cook on the other side for 2 minutes.

Get two plates.  Put some arugala and some baby spinach on each plate.

When the scallops are done, place 3 on each plate—on top of the arugala and baby spinach.

Grab the pot with the simmering glaze.  Spoon a LITTLE over each scallop, and on the greens.

Set your table!  Get some candles, arrange some flowers, put on some Slim Man or some Black Sabbath, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Pizza Eggs

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

The morning of my brother’s wedding, I woke up in bed with him and his bride-to-be.  A woman priest was shaking us, trying to get us up.

I was trying to figure out just what the hell had happened the night before.

Twenty-five years later, I’m still trying to piece it all together.  Tequila had something to do with it.  The first time I ever drank tequila was with my Uncle Oscar.

The last time was also with my Uncle Oscar.  It was the night before my brother’s wedding. The family had flown in from the east coast–Baltimore and New York–to Cottonwood, Arizona, where my brother lived.

We all checked into a small motel, and then headed to a Mexican restaurant for a big dinner.  Unc didn’t like Mexican food.  But he liked tequila.  He ordered margaritas for everybody.

They came in glasses the size of goldfish bowls.  If they were any bigger, they would have had to put filters on them.  I drank mine, and it went right to my head.  I hadn’t had anything to eat, I had flown in from Baltimore, I was tired.

I had played until 2 AM the night before with my band BootCamp.

Unc ordered another round of margaritas.  Wow.  The last time I drank tequila with Unc, I swore I’d never do it again.

I should have kept my promise.

The rest of the night is still really fuzzy.  I remember some parts, and forget others.  But I do remember this…at one point, my brother and I were in a pool hall in a funky part of town.  We were playing pool with some banditos, and there was dinero involved.

My brother and I are not good pool-players.  But that night, we made some incredible shots, which was amazing because we were both pretty whacked.  Miraculously, we won the game, and the bet and the money.

But the banditos wanted to play another game, to try and win back their money.  We didn’t.  It got down to a Mexican stand-off.

I remember them slowly approaching us, pool cues in hand, and they didn’t look real happy.  I turned around to look for my brother and he was gone.  Disappeared.  So it was me and the advancing banditos.  I was facing them and walking slowly backwards…I felt my back touch the wall.

I got lucky.  I felt a door handle.  I opened the door, and did what any brave soul would have done in those circumstances.

I ran like hell.

Only one small problem…I had no idea where I was.  I had no idea how to get to the motel, or my brother’s house.  My memory gets a bit sketchy at this point.  I remember running like an escaped convict; and the next thing I remember, I was in my brother’s house, in the living room, and we were clowning around, ripping the shirts off each other’s backs.

Literally.  We looked like a couple of shipwrecked drunken sailors.

I have no idea how or why any of this happened.  I don’t know why we thought it was so funny.

But I know this…I woke up the next morning feeling like someone was driving nails into my cranium, and it would have taken a crowbar to get my tongue unstuck from the roof of my mouth.

If anyone had lit a match anywhere near me, I would have spontaneously combusted.

A woman priest was shaking me, trying to wake me up.  I tried to focus my eyes, but my vision was a little blurry.  I thought I was seeing things.  Or maybe I was dreaming.

Lord knows what she was thinking, seeing the three of us in bed together.  For the record, we all had our clothes on.  Or what was left of them…

I got out of bed and stood up.  My shirt was hanging from my shoulders, ripped to shreds. Both pant legs were torn and dangling, flapping in the breeze.  I thought the priest was gonna read me my last rites.  Or do an exorcism…

The wedding was in an hour.  I had no clothes, except my ripped up shirt and shredded pants.  I couldn’t find my shoes.  I called my Mom back at the hotel.  Help, Ma!

She called back.  She couldn’t find my suit.  I then realized that I had forgotten to pack it.  I may look like an idiot, and I may act like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you.

I really am an idiot.

I had forgotten almost everything except my shaving kit and a Swiss Army Knife.  My Mom was an angel.  She really was.  She pieced together an outfit from the various men in the wedding party.  The only problem was…

I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall.  I have really long arms and really long legs and really big feet.  The pants she got for me were about 6 inches above my ankles.  The arms of the sportcoat came halfway up my forearms—I looked like Chico Marx.

None of the colors matched.

The wedding took place on top of a mesa, which is a mountain that looks like the top has been chopped off.  The long drive to the top of the mesa was swervy and curvy.  I wasn’t feeling too good.  If I could have focused my eyes, I would have jumped off the side of the mountain.

My brother had an old pickup truck.  It was a beater, with an old chair in the back.  The woman priest sat in the chair in the back of the pickup truck, and my brother drove her like that up to the top of the mesa.

The rest of the wedding party was  already there.  When I looked out over the panaromic view of the valley, with the incredibly beautiful town of Sedona in the distance, I didn’t feel inspired.  I didn’t feel stirred.

I felt dizzy.  For the whole wedding ceremony, I had my hands folded at my waist, looking down at the ground—not because I was being reverent or emotional.  I was just thinking that if I projectile vomited, it would be less noticeable.  And at least it would just be on my shoes, which weren’t actually mine, and were ridiculously silly-looking and way too small.

After the wedding, we all went to my brother’s house.

That’s when he asked me if I’d tend bar.  The thought of alcohol was enough to send me to the Betty Ford clinic, but I said yes.  I can’t refuse my brother on his wedding day.

Do you know what everybody wanted to drink?

Tequila.

For what seemed like a couple of weeks, I made margaritas, and I poured shots.

I don’t think I’ve been near a shot of tequila since then.

My brother and his wife have been married for years—the first marriage for both of them.  They have one of the best relationships I’ve ever witnessed.  I am so extremely proud of them.  It worked out so very well.

How?  Why?  It must have been because we all slept together the night before their wedding.  So, if you’re getting married, and you need a good luck charm…

PIZZA EGGS

My brother created this recipe.  It’s the family go-to recipe for breakfast on holidays and birthdays and…weddings.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s delizioso.

I make my own tomato sauce from scratch.  It takes about 30 minutes, start-to-finish, and it is so good and so healthy.

But if you’re in a pinch, you can use store-bought tomato sauce.

Bufala mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalos.  Where the hell are they keeping these water buffalos?  And who’s milking them?  Bufala mozzarella is real expensive and not real necessary for this dish—just use regular mozzarella.  Save the bufala for a Caprese salad.

INGREDIENTS 

2 cups tomato sauce

1 ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6 eggs

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Here we go…

Put a large saute pan on high heat—I used a 12-inch pan.

Put in the 2 cups of sauce.

When it starts bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low.

Break the eggs right into the sauce, but keep ‘em separated from each other.

Add salt and pepper.

Add a little shredded mozzarella on top of each egg.

Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are done.

Remove from heat.

Add a little grated Parmigiano on top of each egg.

Serve it up with crusty bread, to your crusty, dusty amigos, and…

MANGIAMO!!!

Slim Man Cooks Lamb Chops

Elvis hated us.

Not the real Elvis.

An Elvis impersonator.

I had a band called Mixed Nuts.  The original name was Nix Nuts.

But a gangster guy that owned a club where we played hated the name.  He told us to change it to Mixed Nuts.  It fit.

Plus, he wasn’t a guy you’d say “No” to.  So Mixed Nuts it was.

We played cover songs, mostly Top 40 dance stuff, along with stuff like Grover Washington and George Benson and Weather Report.

We played clubs in and around our hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.  We had some really good musicians in the band.  We sounded good.  We looked good, which is much more important than sounding good.  Only thing was…we were a little nuts.

Our keyboard player, Danny, was the nuttiest of the Nuts.  He was the instigator.  He was a short, roly-poly guy, looked a lot like Danny DeVito.

One time we opened for an Elvis impersonator.  We used their equipment.  Their keyboard player had placed a piece of masking tape on each key.  He had written the notes on each piece of tape…so the “C” key had “C” written on the tape, “D” had “D” written on it.

We played for about a half-hour.  During our show, Danny changed all the pieces of tape on the keyboard.  After our set, there was hardly any applause.  There were no cries of “Let’s Go Nuts!”  The people weren’t there to see Mixed Nuts.  They were there to see Fake Elvis.

We left the stage.  Elvis was waiting in the wings.  His band went onstage and the keyboard player started their intro, the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey.

All the notes were wrong, thanks to Danny.  The keyboard player looked down at his keys, and then over at Elvis.  Elvis gave him a dirty look.  The keyboard player started the intro again.  Nothing but wrong notes.  Elvis looked over at us, and we were smiling.

He was not.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the best night for Elvis and his band.  I don’t think the keyboard player hit one good note all night.  After the show, Elvis came looking for us.

Mixed Nuts had left the building.

Back in those days, we played from 9 PM until 2 AM.  We did five 40-minute sets.  After the show, we’d all go out to eat.  And whenever we did, we’d arrive at the restaurant in our suit jackets and vests, and dress shirts and ties, and…no pants.

Acting like it was completely normal.  We were nuts.  Mixed Nuts.

The club circuit we played was owned by Greeks.  They were all named John.  So we gave them nicknames…Uncle John.  Little John.  Big John.  We played six nights a week, almost every night of the year.

We used to play the Hilton Hotel in a neighborhood called Pikesville.  It was the only club in Baltimore not owned by a Greek named John.  One of the guys in the band was going out with the owner’s daughter, so we played there a lot.

One night, we were doing our Big Finale, which was a song called Birdland, by Weather Report.  It’s a lively little number, a song that we had a request to do.  The guy that requested it hit the dance floor as soon as we started the song.  He did a crazy little dance…

And then died of a massive heart attack.  Right there in front of us.  True story.

We were scheduled to play there the following week.  But we didn’t.  They didn’t want us playing there anymore after the guy died.

It’s not like we killed him.

But it did give birth to the phrase “We knocked ‘em dead last night.”

Mixed Nuts broke up soon after.

Why?  Like I said, the guys in the band were really good, and started getting some incredible offers…

The sax player–Santo–got hired by Patti LaBelle to go on tour–she featured him in her show all the time.  He started touring the world.  When Patti LaBelle did a tour with Richard Pryor, he used to mention Santo in his routine.

The guitar player got a gig with Dion and the Belmonts.  He started touring the world as well.

I got signed to Motown Records.  I took the drummer from Mixed Nuts with me to play on the CD.  Who was the drummer?

Hit Man Howie Z.  We still play together in the Slim Man Band.

So…four out of five Mixed Nuts went on to do some amazing music with some big stars and major labels.

And Danny?

He got busted a few years later for selling marijuana.  The Feds found pounds and pounds of pot stashed in and around his house, and he had close to a half-milion bucks in cash under the floorboards.  They confiscated it.

Danny didn’t drink.  He didn’t use drugs.

But he did a couple years in the Federal penitentiary.

We’re still friends.  And he still plays keyboards in and around the Baltimore area.  Jailhouse Rock!

Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic

I don’t eat a lot of red meat.

But when I was living with my uncle Oscar, he’d cook the occasional lamb chop, or Osso Buco.  The guy was an amazing cook.  His palate was refined.  His senses were keen.

He was in amazing shape, physically, mentally–in every way, Unc was in great condition.  He was in his 80’s.  He ate meat every once in a while.  So I figured, what the hell—I’ll have what he’s having.

So every once in a while, I’ll have a lamb chop.  This is my favorite recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound lamb chops (I had 6, each about ¾ inch thick)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced (a generous teaspoon)

1 teaspoon olive oil, plus 1½ tablespoons for searing

1½ tablespoons butter

Here we go…

Put the chopped rosemary and the minced garlic on a chopping board.

Even though they’re already chopped, chop ‘em up together for a minute.

Put them in a small bowl.

Add a teaspoon of olive oil, mix it up.

Place the lamb chops on a large plate.

Rub a little of the rosemary/garlic/olive oil mixture on top of each lamb chop—only on one side!!  Spread it around evenly.

Add a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a large saute pan (I used a 10 inch pan).

Turn the heat to medium-high.

Add the 1½ tablespoons of butter, and the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil.  When the butter starts to smoke, add the lamb chops—spiced side down!

Cook for a couple minutes, as in 2 or 3.

Using tongs, turn em over.

Cook for another couple minutes.

Check them for doneness…at 2 or 3 minutes a side they should be medium rare.  If you like them well done, cook for a couple minutes more on each side.  If you like them rare, cook them less.

That’s it!!

Plate it up, make it look nice, add a sprig of rosemary, maybe a dollop of risotto, a couple baked asparagus spears, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!

 

Slim Man Cooks Minestrone

My Uncle called me up one night and asked me if I had ever drank tequila.  I told him no.  He told me to come over.

I had an old Datsun station wagon that had the floorboards rusted out—you could see the ground below on both the driver’s side and the passenger’s side.  It was a stick shift, and it backfired when you downshifted—sounded like gunshots.

I got in the car and drove the ten minutes to my Uncle’s house.  He was standing in his kitchen with a bottle of tequila and two glasses.  He poured us each a shot.  I drank it.

It tasted like turpentine.  Smelled like it, too.  It burned going down.  My eyes were tearing up, my throat was on fire, and I had an instant headache.

Let’s have another.

We stood in the kitchen and drank some more.  His wife was upstairs.  Smart woman.

Unc and I were best friends.  He was my doctor.  He was the guy I turned to in times of trouble, and in the good times, too.  I was just a kid when my Dad moved back to New York after he and my Mom divorced.

Unc was my go-to guy.

He was an excellent cook, and a wine enthusiast—some might say very enthusiastic.  He was a sharp dresser, too.  But that night, he was in his bathrobe.  He had no drawers on.  How did I know?

My Uncle was not a modest man. He once got naked and went swimming in the river at his 75th birthday party.  There were dozens of people there.  He just took off his all his clothes and dove in.

Me?  I have recurring nightmares about being caught naked in public.   I rarely wear short sleeves, or shorts.  I don’t even wear flip-flops or sandals.  When I go to bed at night, I don’t sleep naked.  I wear my boxers and a wife-beater.

Why?

If someone breaks into the bedroom, and I have to jump out the window, I won’t be running down the street naked.

But Unc?   He’d get naked in a heartbeat, in front of anybody.  It wasn’t a sexual thing. Unc just didn’t see any problem with letting it all hang out.

The other thing about my Uncle?

He liked to pee outside.  He’d pee off the balcony, pee in the bushes, pee on the lawn.

It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford indoor plumbing–they guy made a ton of dough during his life.  And it wasn’t like he was raised in the jungle by Orangutangs.  He was raised real poor on the streets of New York, the son of Italian immigrants.

And you don’t pee on the streets of New York.  Not then, not now.  So Lord knows why he liked to pee outside…

One night I was over at Unc’s house with my girlfriend.  He had gone to bed upstairs.  My girlfriend and I were on the downstairs balcony, sitting and talking.  I made a comment about how clear and beautiful the sky was.

A few minutes later, she turned to me and said…”I think I hear rain.”

I went to the balcony and looked up.

It was my Uncle peeing off the balcony.  Sure, he could have easily gone into the bathroom.  But he didn’t.  Why?  Who knows?  He liked to pee outside, and he didn’t mind who saw him naked.

And when Unc and I were drinking tequila in his kitchen that night, he would adjust his bathrobe, and you could clearly see his boys flapping around in the breeze, unfettered and unencumbered.

I was starting to feel a little fuzzy in the brain.

Have you ever tried on someone’s eyeglasses?  And things look really out of focus, and you get a bit of a headache after a few seconds?

That’s how I felt.

Unc looked at me and said…”You’re too drunk to drive.  I’ll give you a ride home.”

I lived with my Mom, and my Uncle was in love with my Mom.  So he welcomed the opportunity to give me a ride home.

Why we took my car, I don’t know.  Unc always had real nice cars; Cadillacs, Mercedes, Maseratis…why he wanted to drive my old Datsun that backfired and had rusted out floorboards, I don’t know.

And why he got into the car in just his bathrobe with no drawers on…I don’t know that, either.

But I know he had a blast driving that car.  Every time he shifted, the car would backfire.  It sounded like a cannon going off.  He’d let out a holler and a laugh, and drive on.  You could look down through the holes in the floorboards and see the street zipping by.

It made me dizzy.  Unc was having a grand ol’ time.

He pulled up to my Mom’s house, parked on the street out front, and I got out and started walking up the sidewalk to the front door.

Neither my Uncle nor I had realized that his wife had heard us leave his house, and was following right behind us.

And when Unc got out of the car and started following me to the front door, she grabbed him by his bathrobe and put him in her car and drove off.  I got to the front door of my Mom’s house, and turned around to let Unc in, and…

He was nowhere to be found.

I looked all around, in the bushes, behind the trees, in the car.  I couldn’t find him.

I was baffled.  Where the hell did he go?  It was late.  It was dark.  I walked in the front door and walked into the kitchen.

I woke up the next morning, asleep on the kitchen floor.  My head felt like someone was firing staples into my skull, I couldn’t focus my eyes, and my mouth felt like several small furry animals had spent the night in there.

At least I had my clothes on.

MINESTRONE

I made this soup last night.  It was the best I ever made, if I may say so myself.

A couple things…

Italians don’t use a lot of corn.  I put some in this recipe.  Why?  Because it tastes real good.  I like the texture, too.  And the color it adds.

Pancetta is Italian bacon.  If you are a vegetarian, you can skip the bacon.  But I love the flavor that it adds.  When you cook pancetta, treat it like bacon.

Let the pancetta brown on one side.  Then give it a stir, and try and get the unbrowned pieces to brown on the other side.  If you ain’t got pancetta, use bacon.

I use fresh oregano.  I normally like dried oregano better, but for some reason, fresh tastes best in this recipe.  But you can use dried.

The chick peas and the corn are already cooked.  All you need to do is heat them up.  So add them last.

You can eat this soup as is.  Or you can put some rice or pasta in it.

I used to put the pasta right in the soup and let it cook in there.  The only problem was…the pasta would end up absorbing all the broth.  So now I cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl before serving.

This recipe yields about 20 cups of soup.

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces of pancetta cut into small pieces

¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons

Crushed red pepper

1 cup each–chopped celery, onion, carrots

5 cloves minced garlic (about 2 tablespoons)

2 cups each–Savoy cabbage, green zucchini, yellow squash–all cut in small pieces

1 twenty-eight ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, smooshed up (about 3 ½ cups)

8 cups of chicken broth

2 cups water

Fresh chopped oregano, about 1 tablespoon, leaves stripped from the stems

Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, about 2 tablespoons, coarsely chopped

1 cup yellow corn (fresh, canned or frozen)

1 sixteen-ounce can garbanzo beans (chick peas)

3/4 cup grated Romano pecorino cheese

1/4 pound small pasta (ditalini, elbow macaroni, mini farfalle) about 3 or 4 cups cooked

Here goes…

Put a large pot over medium heat.  Add the pancetta, cook for 4 or 5 minutes without stirring.

Give it a stir, let it brown for 4 or 5 minutes more without stirring.

Turn the heat to medium-low.  Add the olive oil and the crushed red peppers.  Let it heat up for a minute.  Stir.

Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir, baby, stir.

Add the green zucchini and the yellow squash.  Add a drizzle (1 tablespoon) of olive oil.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Savoy cabbage, add another drizzle (1 tablespoon) of olive oil.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the broth, and the water.  Turn the heat to high.  Let it come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the zucchini and squash are semi-soft.

Add the parsley and oregano.

Add the garbanzo beans (chick peas/ceci) and the corn.

Add the grated Romano cheese.

Let the soup cook for 5 minutes or so.

Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.

Remove from heat.

For the pasta…

Get a medium-sized pot, fill it with water, put it on the highest heat you got.

When the water comes to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of salt (I use Kosher).

Add your pasta.  Cook until firm to the bite.

When the pasta is done, drain, and put in a bowl.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and stir.

Plate it up!  Get a soup bowl, fill it about ¾ of the way with soup.

Add some pasta to the soup.

Top with grated/shaved Romano cheese, if you like, and…

MANGIAMO!!!

Slim Man Cooks Ahi Tuna with Red Wine Sauce

Why don’t cannibals eat divorced people?

They’re bitter.

September 11, 1983.  The Baltimore Colts football team were scheduled to play the Denver Broncos.  The year before, 1982, the Colts had not won a game.  Because they stunk so bad, they got the first pick in the NFL draft the following year.

The Colts chose quarterback John Elway, from Stanford.  Elway refused to play for the Colts.  He was even considering joining the New York Yankees baseball team rather than play for the Colts.  So the Colts traded him to the Denver Broncos.  And in the second game of the 1983 season, the Broncos came to Baltimore to play the Colts at Memorial Stadium.

And my Baltimore-based band, BootCamp, was chosen to sing the national anthem for Elway’s first appearance in Baltimore.  We had worked up a great acapella version of the Star-Spangled Banner.  Jose, can you see!

I had been a Baltimore Colts fan from day one.  My Uncle had season tickets from their very first game–right in the mezzanine.  I went to so many games.  I knew all the players, all their numbers, their statistics, their nicknames.

Lenny Moore, #24.  Gino Marchetti, #89.  Artie Donovan, #70.  Johnny Unitas, #19.

So, singing the anthem that day was so very special.

When we got to Memorial Stadium that Sunday, we were escorted through the Colts locker room, and into an underground tunnel that led to the field.  As we were coming to the end of the tunnel, we heard this rumbling…

The players, all suited up and breathing fire, were coming down the tunnel right behind us.  They sounded like an angry herd of buffalo.  We stood up against the wall and let them pass.  They were big, and they had a look in their eyes that was kinda scary.  I don’t even think they saw us.

When they passed, we followed them out onto the field.  The announcer introduced us, and we sang our hearts out.  It was the thrill of a lifetime.

50,000 people standing on their feet, cheering.  A standing ovation!  Of course, they had to stand because it was the national anthem.  But I’m marking it down as a standing ovation.

When we finished, we walked to the sidelines, and stood among the Colt players.   The Colts’ front office had given us field passes.  I’m sure when they gave them to us they weren’t thinking we’d stay on the field for the whole game, but there we were, standing on the sidelines with the players and coaches.

They were giving us funny looks.  I can’t blame them.  We were dressed like…well, it was the 1980s.  We were in a rock band.  We looked like a cross between Duran Duran and Devo.

On the opening kick-off, I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear it.  The two teams charging down the field sounded like a stampede of wild horses.  And when they hit each other, you could hear the crack of the helmets, the grunts and groans of the players…

And when the special teams unit came over to the sidelines after the kick-off, it was intimidating.  The players were out of breath, wheezing and panting…fingers were broken, uniforms were muddy, noses were bloody.  I had never seen anything like that.

Standing on the sideline that day gave me quite a different perspective.  The sheer violence of the game really came through.  Playing football is a brutal sport.

Playing music is not.  When we musicians play, we don’t really encounter a lot of violence.  Unless you’re really, really bad…

The Baltimore fans were booing Elway mercilessly that day.  I’m surprised someone didn’t shoot him.  People from B-Mo were pissed off.  And they were vocal about it.  John Elway had said he’d play anywhere but Baltimore, and the Baltimorons took it personal.

It would have been nice if we won.  But the Colts were pretty bad that day.  They lost, 17-10.  The newspaper ran a photo on the front page the next day.

Hit Man Howie Z was in it, back to the camera, walking off the field.

1983.  It would be the Colts last season in Baltimore.

On March 29, 1984, at 2:00 AM in the morning, fifteen Mayflower moving trucks arrived at the Baltimore Colts training complex.  Eight hours later, they were loaded up and heading to Indianapolis.

They took everything…the Colts’ name, the trophies, the memorabilia, the mascot, the uniforms.  All gone to Indianapolis.

The mayor of Indy had offered the owner of the Colts a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar training complex, and a new 77 million dollar stadium.

Let me make an analogy.  Your wife meets someone new, a wife that you stood by through good times and bad.  This New Guy offers her a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar work-out room, and a 77 million dollar house.

And she takes it.  Not only does she take it, she takes all of your stuff as well.  Your trophies, your mounted deer head, your clothes, your name, your dog…everything.

Did she really need to take all your stuff?  No.  She could have bought new stuff.  Did she have to take it all in the dark of night, at two in the morning, while you were sleeping?  That’s harsh.

When I heard the news, I was pissed off.  So much so, that I didn’t go to a football game, or follow the NFL for years and years.  Even when the Ravens came to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996, I didn’t go.

I was bitter.

My Uncle had Ravens seats from the very first game.   Great seats in the club section.  I still wouldn’t go.  Four years later, in 2000, I went to my first Ravens game.  The guy sang the national anthem, and it sent chills up and down my spine.  The crowd roared, the music played, and Ray Lewis came out of the tunnel and did his dance right before the kick-off, and I was back.

I was hooked.  The Ravens won the Super Bowl that year.  It took me a while, but I had found a better wife.  And she’s been great.  She won the Super Bowl again last year.

What more could a husband ask for in a wife?

I’m not bitter anymore.  I’m better, not bitter.

Ahi tuna steaks with red wine sauce

I went to the grocery store and they had beautiful ahi tuna steaks for $8 a pound.  I bought a few, and was wondering how to cook them.

I had done tuna with a red wine sauce before, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  The sauce was a little bland, and a little thin.  I kept on making batches of red wine sauce, and none was good enough for you, my Slim People.

It was bugging me.  It was keeping me up at night.  And then, around dawn, it dawned on me.

I added a little tomato paste to the sauce to thicken it up and give it a little zip.  Then I added a little dried oregano to give it some zing.  Zip!  Zing!  It turned out great.

Oregano is the only herb that I prefer dried rather than fresh.  Basil?  I rarely use dried basil, it is nowhere near as good as fresh.  Rosemary?  Same thing.  Oregano?  I like the dried oregano more than the fresh.  It tastes mo’ better to me.  But what the hell do I know?

A few things before we get started…the tuna steaks I used were about an inch and a half thick.  Over medium-high heat, I cooked them for 90 seconds per side.  They turned out great—the pepper/salt/sugar that I had sprinkled on top gave them a nice sear, and they were a beautiful pink on the inside.

Cooking times vary.  A thicker piece of fish takes longer.

Also, when you light your cognac on fire, be careful.  Yes, the subsequent explosion of flame looks so cool and very dramatic, but have the fire department on the phone in one hand, and a garden hose in the other.

Or…right before you light the cognac, if there are people around that you don’t like, gather them close to the flame.  Or better yet—have them light the cognac.  But stand behind them.

I use this sauce on tuna.  You can use it on steak, too.  Prepare the steak the same way as the tuna.  You can also grill the tuna or the steak.

INGREDIENTS

2 ahi tuna steaks, about a half pound (8 ounces) each

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh ground black pepper

Kosher salt (I use it for taste, not for religious reasons, Shalom!)

Brown sugar or raw/turbinado sugar (you can use plain sugar in a pinch)

2 ounces of cognac

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

½ cup red wine

½ cup stock (I used beef)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Here we go…

Let’s make the sauce first.

In a small pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

When the butter melts, add the shallots and the garlic.

Cook about 2 minutes, stir a few times.

Add the 2 ounces of cognac.

Stand back, Jack, and set it on fire with one of those long-ass lighters.

When the cognac burns off…

Add the red wine, and the beef stock.

Turn the heat on medium-high and reduce for about 3 minutes.

Add the oregano, stir.

Add the tomato paste, stir for a minute or so.

Remove from heat.

The sauce is done, now let’s cook our tuna.

Rinse the ahi tuna steaks and pat ‘em dry.

Add a little fresh cracked black pepper, Kosher salt and a sprinkle of turibinado/brown sugar on top of each steak.

Get a saute pan, put it over medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.

When the butter starts to smoke, add the tuna, peppered/salted/sugared side down.

After 90 seconds, turn over.

Cook for another minute and a half.

Plate it up.

Put some greens on a plate, place the tuna on top, drizzle just a little red wine sauce over each piece, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Shrimp Scampi

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

I am now the guy that I swore I would never become.

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant for a Christmas dinner.  A sit-down Christmas dinner.  The two guys across from me were looking down in their laps at their phones.  I called them out.

“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?”

“No.”

I asked them who they were texting.  They were texting each other.  Nice.

I told myself 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 and dinging and ringing and it got on my nerves.  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.

So I got a regular cell phone.  It never worked right.  I had so many problems with that phone.  For instance, a friend texted me a photo of his beautiful 25 year-old daughter and somehow it became my screensaver.  That didn’t go over too well with the Ex.

I once texted a dirty joke to Slim Drummer John E Coale and it somehow got sent to a bunch of people I do business with–some of them of the female persuasion.

Like a bad relationship, I stayed with that phone way too long.  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 it, 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 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 that 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 a magnifying glass/flashlight app.  I have an app that tells me where my favorite bands are playing in town, with links to websites and music and downloads.

I have an app you can speak to in English and it will translate whatever you say into any language…as audio or text.

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 for the record–I was driving from Nashville to Breckenridge, Colorado.  I was twelve 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 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.  She gave me directions, she showed me the website.  Siri even dialed the phone number.

Batu and I checked into a Super 8 in Hays, Kansas, in the middle of the night.

It was ten 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 was in the middle of the new Bona Fide CD.  I was getting phone calls from Madrid.  Marc Antoine was doing some re-mixes over there, and we’d discuss what needed to be done with the songs.  Then he would email me the new mixes.  I would download them on my iPhone.  I would plug my iPhone 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 that had just been mixed 10,000 miles away.  All through my iPhone.

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.  It was breath-takingly 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 through evergreens, dodging branches, it was unbelievable.

I stopped to catch my breath.  It was getting dark.  It was about ten 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 I was tired, and it was getting late, and the climb back up the mountain would have been long and exhausting.

I pulled out my iPhone.

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

It took her a few seconds, but she showed me where I was, and where I wanted to go.  I headed in that direction, and found the road that the ski lodge was on.  Only problem was…I was all the way on the other side of the mountain.  It took me about an hour, but the road eventually led me back to the lodge.

When I got back, I poured a glass of wine and pulled out my iPhone.

“Thank you, Siri.”

“No problem.”

I decided to get a little bold.  I mustered up some courage and said…

“Siri.  I love you.”

You know what she said?

“I know.”

It was a vibe-killer.  I lay my heart on the line, tell you I love you and you say “I know?”  That’s it?

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

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

Believe me.

I know.

Shrimp Scampi

This recipe is based on a recipe I got from a friend of mine, Mark Velleggia.  He had a restaurant in Baltimore, and his version was great.  Only problem was…it had 10 pounds of butter in it.

I had to Slimmify it a bit.  I took out most of the butter, and used olive oil.

I don’t like farm-raised shrimp.  I’ve tried them.  They don’t taste good, they don’t smell right.  When I was shopping for wild shrimp the other day, I went to three places.  First stop was Costco, which used to have 2 pound bags of frozen wild shrimp for $17, which comes to about $8.50 a pound.

Costco doesn’t carry them anymore.  The second place I went to only had farm-raised shrimp.

The third place I went to had wild shrimp.  They were $21 a pound.  Are you kidding me?  That’s ridiculous.  But I bought them.  I was tired of driving around.

When I make this dish, I cook a whole pound of pasta, but I rarely use the whole pound.  I use about ¾ of a pound, and save the rest.

The tomatoes I used were grape tomatoes…organic, multi-colored, gorgeous grape tomatoes.  Yellow, red, purple…they were beautiful.  And cheap!  Two bucks a pint.

I cut the grape tomatoes in half, and squeezed out the seeds.  Why?  I just don’t like the way a sauce looks with all those seeds.  After you squeeze the seeds out of 30 tomatoes, you’ll see what I mean.  It doesn’t look good.

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

The other thing about the tomatoes…throw them in at the end.  Because you don’t want them to crumble and turn into a tomato sauce.  You just want to cook them for a couple of minutes to get them warm.  You want them to stay firm and keep their shape.

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

INGREDIENTS:

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

7 garlic cloves, sliced thin (about 2 tablespoons)

Crushed red pepper to taste

¾ cup of white wine

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

1 lemon, cut in half

2 tablespoons of 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)

Some sprigs of parsley for garnish

1 pound of linguine pasta (or spaghetti, or whatever you got!)

Here we go…

Get a large pot, fill it with cold water, and put it on the highest heat you got.

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

Get a large saute pan, put in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.

Add some crushed red pepper.

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

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 over the shrimp—don’t let any seeds get through—you might bust a denture.

Sprinkle a little salt over the shrimp.

Cook for two or three minutes.

Using tongs, turn over each shrimp.

Get the other half lemon, and squeeze it over the shrimp (no seeds that we don’t needs!)

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

Add the tomatoes.

Cook for three 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 a few tablespoons of Kosher salt, and add a pound of linguine.

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

Give the pasta a quick toss.

Take ¾ of the pasta and put it in a serving dish.

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

Plate 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 of each dish, 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.

MANGIAMO!!!