Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jalapeño-Butternut-Cauliflower Soup

There is a great farm stand every Thursday near my wife's office.  She stops by and brings me things to cook with.  Last week she came home with a bag of rainbow cauliflower.  I had never seen red or orange or purple or green cauliflower before.  We are planning on using a bunch on a home-made pizza later tonight, but this afternoon I decided to combine the orange cauliflower with butternut squash to make soup.  Nothing beats the subtle heat of a jalapeño pepper so I threw some in too!  The brown sugar balanced nicely off the heat.

2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 rib of celery, chopped
1/4 tsp Caraway seeds, crushed with mortar and pestle
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
3 cups of cubed butternut squash
2 cups of orange cauliflower
1/4 cup dry, unoaked white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 6 minutes, until the pieces start to brown.
  2. Add the carrot, celery, Caraway seeds, jalapeño and brown sugar.  Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the squash and cauliflower.  Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the wine, stock and water.  Bring to boil, turn heat down to medium and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and puree.  Salt and pepper to taste.
When serving try topping with a small smacking of non-fat sour cream and some sliced scallions (or chives).

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Leftover Spaghetti Squash?

My wife makes a spaghetti squash dish about three times a month.  She always varies the toppings and it's always good.  One thing: there is always leftovers.  We have used the leftover squash as a pizza topping, cold on salads and the other day I wanted to come up with something different.  Then it hit me:  Why not make latkes and replace the potato with squash?  I did a web search and didn't find anything exactly like my idea, so I came up with this recipe.  I decided to incorporate a small amount of grated potato into the mixture in order to ensure a crispy crust.  After one [successful] attempt I am sure that you could omit the potato entirely, but I think I will leave it in.

Squaghetti Squash Latkes
        makes 6 cakes

2+ cups cooks cooked and "pulled" spaghetti squash
1 small russet potato grated on the largest hole (about 3/4 cups)
1 smallish medium onion, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 tsp Mexican oregano
10 coriander seeds
10 caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, diced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
2 eggs

  1. Toss the squash and potato with some salt and place in a colander and place this into a bowl.  Place a few layers of folded paper towels on top and add a weight (like 2 or 3 stacked pint glasses).  Let sit for about 30 minutes.  The salt will pull water out and it will drain.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan. While heating crush oregano, seeds and pepper flakes using a mortar and pestle.  Add the diced garlic and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 6 minutes, until they start to brown.  Add the tomato and cook another 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated.
  4. Stir in the seed/herb mixture and cook for about 30 seconds.  Remove onion/herb mixture from pan and let cool.
  5. Take the squash/potato mixture from colander and place in large mixing bowl.  Stir in the cooled onion mixture, cornstarch, panko and season with salt and pepper.  
  6. Fold in the two eggs.
  7. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup form cakes from the mixture.  This should yield about six cakes.  Let cakes sit for about 12 minutes before cooking.
  8. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan, enough to coat, and add three cakes.  Cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes.  Shake the pan to loosen the cakes and cook another two minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional 6 minutes.  Place cooked cakes on a paper towel lined plate.  Cook the remaining cakes, adding oil as needed. 
Serve with a dollop of pesto and a side salad.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stroganock-off (a vegetarian variation)

Stroganoff is a classic fall dish.  Childhood memories of my Mother making it include the way the house smelled - full of dill (remember in the mid-1980's when dill the "in" herb?), cooked red meat and that wonderful smell of noodles boiling in water.  I remember being excited about the big flat style egg noodles she would use.  I forgot about the dish for about 15 years but a few years back I remembered it and starting subbing chicken for the red meat.  It was still just as good and continued to bring back memories of Mom cooking on those cold fall nights.  Most importantly: it's an extremely easy dish to pull off.  

The closest Whole Foods to my house is a bit of a drive, but once a month I play a jazz brunch right next door so I stop in and pick up some of their vegetarian meatless meats.  Some are okay, most aren't the same, a few are actually pretty damn good.  The other day I noticed, for the first time, a product from  a company called "Beyond Meat" that was a container of grilled "chicken" strips.  What struck me as interesting was the ingredients.  Many times these fake meats, although meatless, are still filled with chemicals and fake stuff I can't pronounce.  This product was 100% plant protein!  The ingredients included pea protein, carrot fiber, water, sunflower oil and less than 0.5% of vinegar, sugar, spices.  I decided it was time to put a vegetarian twist on Stroganoff with what I am calling: "Stroganock-off".

Classically this kind of protein/entree is served over egg noodles.  I also like it with a side of rice that has diced celery and scallions.  When I make this kind of rice I replace half the water with vegetable stock and add the celery and scallions after the rice is made.  The finely diced celery adds a fun crunch.

Chicken Stroganock-off
       serves 2

2 servings of Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken Strips (about 12 pieces)
1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon dill (I use fresh or Penzey's dried dill)
2 tablespoons vegetable stock
2 cups (dry) cooked egg noodles
large handful baby arugula
Salt and Pepper.
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion.  Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.  Make sure you don't add any color to them.
  2. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  The salt and heat will pull out water from the mushrooms.  Cook about 10 minutes, add peas, cook additional 7 minutes.
  3. Gently stir in the sour cream, dill and stock.  Add the Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken Strips,  removing from heat just as it begins to boil.
  4. Off heat stir in egg noodles and arugula.
  5. Season and serve.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Asparagus and Bourbon-Brie Soup

A photo posted by Höķm Guerrerø (@revmcnasty) on
Asparagus and Brie Soup is always a treat.  It's considered "delicate" and "posh" and other fancy things.  The flavors blend well and I discovered that it's fairy easy to make.  Most recipes I found are pretty much just asparagus and brie - with some stock, cream and flour added.  No onion, or any aromatics - a couple recipes did include garlic. While I was in the grocery store today I noticed asparagus was insanely cheap and I decided to try my hand at a variation of this soup.  I wanted something that had a bolder and in-your-face flavor compared to what I was reading about online.  I got even more inspiration when I found a container of "smoked bourbon" brie also on sale.  I decided that today I'm gonna put the cookbooks aside and wing this thing.  

When I got home I realized I didn't have brie, but Creme de Brie.  It is creamier and more spreadable.  I figured this would make the step of melting the brie into the soup easier as well as replacing any milk or heavy cream I might decide to add. 

Asparagus & Bourbon-Brie Soup

1/3 cups (or more) of unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped (2 inch pieces)
1 stalk celery, chopped (2 inch pieces)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped (2 inch pieces)
1 bunch asparagus*, bottom white end removed, chopped (2 inch pieces) and separate the tips for later
1 tablespoon flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo Pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable stock
1 five ounce container of Creme de Brie

*Note: I also had a small head of broccoli leftover from last week's trip to the local Farmer's Market.  I figured I'd use it before it went bad for some extra "oomph"  I cut the ends into tiny florets and put them with the asparagus tips.  I chopped up the "meat" part of the broccoli and put that with the stalks of asparagus.

  1. Over medium high heat melt that butter in a large pot.  (Add a dash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to help prevent burning the butter). Turn heat down a little and cook down to just before the butter turns brown. Add the onion, celery and carrot and stir.  Salt and pepper a little.  Increase heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the asparagus (and broccoli) stalks.  NOT THE TIPS.  Stir, salt and pepper.  Cook another 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the flour, Herbes de Provence, Aleppo, garlic and bay leaf.  Cook for one minute to unlock the aromatics.
  4. Stir in the vegetable stock in batches, making sure there are no clumps from the flour. Bring to boil, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  
  5. While this is simmering: turn your oven's broiler on and adjust the rack to be about 8 inches away from the heat.  Place the asparagus tips and broccoli florets onto a greased, foil lined baking sheet and broil for about 4-6 minutes; removing just as the ends start to brown (but they aren't over cooked).  Remove from broiler and let cool on baking sheet.
  6. Remove the soup from heat and discard the bay leaf.
  7. Using a hand held emulsion blender puree the soup.  
  8. While the soup is still relatively hot add 4 ounces of the brie in half once spoonfuls, stirring after the second and fourth to dissolve the brie into the soup.  Add the spear tips and, if using, broccoli florets.
  9. Serve hot, garnishing each bowl with a small dollop of the remaining Creme de Brie. Crusty bread is nice too!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Bandleader as a Coach

It amazes me that I feel compelled to feel the need to compose an article such as this. But events that I have either witnessed or been told first hand accounts of has angered me to the core.

Music is an incredible thing existing in a way almost comparable to a living organic entity. It can be thought of like a flame: it has a birth, it breaths, expands, retracts and eventually dies. The spark of creativity and the give and take of human interaction from each musician allows even a note for note recreation of a performance to have an incredible individualistic identity; each performance has factors that will influence that specific moment to have a unique life.

The musicians that make up a band are no different from a football team. I'm not the first to make a music/sports analogy. I've been reading these comparisons for over twenty years. Miles Davis frequently used boxing as a reference for his own aural creations and bandstand interactions. The team needs to support one another regardless of who is "soloing" or the focus of audience attention. The fluidity of improvised music is two-fold: not only does it mimic the passing of the ball but the actual positions rotate around the bandstand depending on what is happening. The quarterback is always someone different; passing the ball to a receiver and hoping he will catch it; hoping everyone will all still be on the ONE when a spontaneous group hemiola resolves.

If the band is the team, then the bandleader is the Coach. As I previously stated, the quarterback is always someone different, but the Coach is always the same. The Coach's job is not limited to the ego-stroking that comes with being onstage. The job has an important role "off-field" as well. The Coach represents the band to the general public. The Coach is the normally the first contact a new venue has. The Coach's abilities in sales, marketing, legalese, accounting and organization should be limitless. The Coach has got to stand up for his team, otherwise the team will lose faith in their Coach. And a team that has lost that faith will not perform.

A Coach who does not stand up for the band externally - or stand up to the band internally - has no place being a Coach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Falafel RE*MIX

I took a falafel recipe that I have used a lot - but was starting to get bored with - and added a little sumpin' sumpin' for a little.  Normally seasoned with cumin, coriander (and occasionally smoked paprika) this twist injected my latest batch of baked falafel with the flavors of a different part of the Mediterranean Sea.

    makes one dozen

1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like to use Aleppo pepper for this recipe)
1 16 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
5 oz of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
1 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino (or Parm-Romano)
salt and pepper
cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, stick rack in the middle.  At the same time heat some oil over medium high heat in a medium/small saute pan.
  2. Pulse the onion, bell pepper and celery in a food processor to finely chop.  Add this mixture to the heated saute pan.  Salt and pepper and cook until onions are translucent and water has cooked off - about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes and oregano and cook for about 45 seconds.  Remove from heat and add to large bowl and let cool.
  4. Add the chick peas and spinach to the food processor and pulse that bitch.  Dump this paste into the cooled sauteed vegetable mixture.
  5. Add the oil, flour, baking powder, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.  Stir with a small rubber spatula.  Season as desired.
  6. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.  Form a ball slightly smaller than a golf ball with the chick pea mixture and place each one into it's own muffin spot.  This batch makes about 11 or 12. 
  7. Bake for 40 minutes.  No need to turn them, they will be crispy all over the outside and creamy and good in the middle.
I like to finish them with a squirt of fresh lemon juice after they come out of the oven.

Serve over a salad.  I made a sour cream vinaigrette for this batch (recipe below).
Or try in a pita pocket with lettuce, tomato and your favorite condiment.
You could even use these as a meatless meatball and serve with pasta and marinara!  Maybe add some basil with the spinach if you go this route.

Sour Cream Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons non-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
1 tablespoons honey
pinch each of salt and pepper
  1. Add all ingredients to a small jar with lid (an old Grey Poupon jar is perfect).
  2. Put lid on tightly and shake for 30 seconds.  
  3. Pour over salad.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rambling Poetry

Haiku I

You claim yourself an
asset yet behavior proves
you's just an Ass Hat.


Haiku II

Looking deep within
myself I am intrigued
by the combinations.


Libertarian Limerick I

There once was a man from America,
Whose life was prone to hysteria,
Tho no fault of his own,
For his government was prone, 
To behave as if spelled "Amerika"


Haiku III

Your caustic tongue shines
bright for the moth (me) so I
rush towards you inspired.


Haiku IV

We judge ourselves by
intentions, yet others judge
by our last worst act.


Popeye's Haiku

He stole her chicken;
She threw fries at him. They kiss.
Relationship goals.


Beauty's Strength - a Haiku in 2 stanzas

True beauty will yell
loudly even when nature
attempts to mute it.

This little flower
proves me right.  Pollution can't
silence it's color.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Cover Up Part 2: Still Not Gonna Play Covers

The past few weeks I have been informing my various musical groups of my intention: limiting the performance on non-original material and focusing on returning to the act of creating something new.  I said I would discontinue performing more than one or two covers per set (a set being 50 minutes... or 100 minutes depending on the venue).  You would think I was the Grinch and they woke up to find a few broken needles where their tree once stood.

I'm not trying to insult the countless talented people who are cover musicians.  I know some personally and they are amazing at what they do.  They get joy out of it and they bring joy to those listening.  I don't find joy in it and, quite frankly, I hate myself in the days leading up to and the day following gigs padded with cover material.  I feel like I am being dishonest with myself and it sends me into a depression-like state.

When I was emailing the bands I work with and explaining myself the reactions were priceless.  One musician said "but we don't have a lot of original material".  I didn't respond to that because: if your garden has no flowers you can plant some.  Another said I was "selling out".  And yet another wasn't sure what I meant by, what he called, this arbitrary decision. I'm pretty sure that last guy doesn't know what arbitrary means and was thinking he was using a $2 word to intelligently express his displeasure.  The bottom line is:  I can't live with myself if I continue this trend of a gig that is 95% cover material.

It amazes me because for the first 10 years I was a professional, full-time, musician the three bands I performed with only played the occasional non-original song.  An improvisational #BAM trio, a rock band and a funk/r&b band.  Between the three groups I spent about 6 years touring most of the south-east, mid-west and west coast of the United States and we played our own music.  No one cared.  The audience didn't care; the audience LOVED it.  I got to work with Bob Weir, BB King and countless other, lessor know but equally talented, people.  We were there to bring our art to the public and the public's ears sat eager to listen and - hopefully - enjoy us.  Do we blame modern times and technology for the need to have a musician play covers the entire night?  Is it the fear that we will be replaced by an iPod?

Since Hurricane Katrina and my relocation to Philadelphia I feel that, somehow, a button got pushed and people around me were more interested in spending hours perfecting someone else's composition than attempting tto stretch out; playing around in the part of our brain that cjust might find new harmonic and melodic combinations; new colors never heard before. I don't think it's laziness. I hope it's not laziness. Is it laziness?  Is it a fear?

I was driving home from a gig this weekend (about 10 hours after dealing with a pretty serious bout of food poisoning) and I got to thinking.  I do not want to have people come hear me play a cover song.  I want people to come listen to an original creation influenced by my own personal experience that just might open their eyes and change their lives.  I've seen it happen.

That being said: I'm quite pleased with the two groups I lead.  The Courtesy Shuttle is almost entirely original instrumental fusion composed by either bassist Rich Curtis or myself.  And the swing band, The High Rollers, has been making the shift to this new sound organically.

Notes by Thelonious Monk to his band.
While I am boldly opposed to personally performing cover material there is a huge exception: the local songwriter.  I do not feel that a great tune written by local pianist David Dzubinski is a cover song, so we play it.  Davey Cope is a friend and helluva singer/songwriter and someone appreciating his [yet] undiscovered talent and embracing it by helping expose it to the world is a great thing.  What I don't think is necessary is someone expecting the Jimmy Winklejon Quartet to play Fly Me To The Moon with the same arrangement and ending that Sinatra did.  Or someone approaching me at a solo gig and asking for Randy Newman or (gag) Billy Joel.  Did they not see the people enjoying the instrumental that I just finished writing that day to celebrate the birth of my niece?  Did they not see the woman with a tear in her eye after one of my lyrics regarding pre-storm New Orleans?  Did most of the room not laugh-out-loud when I sang about my wife and admitted that she is the reason I shower?

This debate is probably not going to end soon, but starting August 1st I put my foot down.

You want a jukebox, buy a damn iPod.

You want live music that no place else is able to have?  Give me a call.

Friday, July 3, 2015


This is a variation of a soup that was in a cookbook that disappeared from my kitchen a long time ago.  The flavors are simple yet memorable.  The carrots, almost undercooked, add a great crunch to this pureed soup.  The bell pepper is optional - I don't normally add it, but if it's in your fridge throw it in.  If you don't use it, add a third carrot to the lineup.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 teaspoon dried savory leaves
1/2 teaspoon Allepo Pepper flakes
2 15.5 oz cans of White Beans (aka: Northern Beans), drained and rinsed until water runs clear
1 small bay leaf
1 32 oz. container of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4-1/3 red or orange bell pepper, sliced into half matchstick sized pieces

  1. Melt yo' butter in a soup pot on medium-high heat.  Add the onions and celery and sweat that schitt.
  2. After about 8-10 minutes stir in the aromatics (garlic, savory and pepper flakes).  Bloom them for about 30 seconds. 
  3. Stir in the beans and cook another 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the stock and bay leaf.  Bring to boil and simmer for 30.
  5. In a small skillet add the veg oil and saute the carrots and peppers on medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes.  The carrots should NOT be soft.
  6. Once the soup is cooked, puree everything in the first pot.  You can use a food processor but I like the "boat motor" I got for Christmas a few years ago.  It saves a lot of dirty dishes.
  7. Add your sauteed veggies to the pureed soup and you have a delicious and easy meal.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a salad or some crusty bread.  OR BOTH: it's your soup gosh darn-it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Goodbye, Ornette.

RIP Ornette. 

The first time I heard Ornette Coleman's music was one of those moments when I felt like my ears have been replaced by eyes.

Eyes that couldn't refuse these metaphysical binoculars being manacled onto them forcing observations of this new amazing sonic world. 

It was comparable to when I was 9 years old and heard that first track off Led Zeppelin 1 played at full volume.

It was that virgin experience of Kind of Blue, after that eerie piano/bass intro followed by the call and response melody on "So What" when Miles lays down the first four notes of his solo with Cobb, Chambers and Evans behind him wandering into modal territory.

I was in High School and I was loving Lou Reed.  I found every interview, every cassette tape I could get my hand on... even the bad stuff; especially the bad stuff!  Lou kept talking about Ornette Coleman.  Ornette this, Ornette that.  I recognized the name from my Dad's Real Book and I flipped thru until I found a blues head -  I believe it was Broadway Blues.  Well I didn't get it.  I still hadn't heard him and looking at a chart with no time signature, no bar lines.... well, my classically trained little brain couldn't handle it. 

Solution: a trip to Tower Records on South Street.  I left with two Ornette CDs.  (one is here) Music changed forever that car ride home.  And I think my friends banned me from picking car music for quite a long time.

It was years until my world would again be rocked by that kind of forward thinking music.  The next time was in college and I heard "The Windup" off Keith Jarrett's album, Belonging.

RIP Ornette.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vegetarian Gumbo (with Kale, Okra & ToFurky)

A photo posted by Höķm Guerrerø (@revmcnasty) on

I LOVE GUMBO.  It's my comfort food.  Even if I'm not hungry I can polish off a bowl of this amazing stuff in record time.  Since becoming vegetarian I have tried and tried again to make a satisfying gumbo and I've been let down again and again.  Finally, after much deliberation with the Wife, I came up with a combination of flavors that is the closest thing to the carnivore version of one of my favorite dishes of all time.

4-5 cups of loosely packed chopped kale
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 springs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 TBSP salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Crystal brand hot sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chopped frozen okra
1/2 lb (2 links) ToFurky sausage, sliced into thin discs
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice (or quinoa or orzo)
Scallions, sliced
Filé powder
  1.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add kale and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain kale into colander.  Rinse out the pot and place back on stove.
  2. Whisk together oil and flour into the pot and cook on moderately high heat.  Try and make a roux as dark as you can.  I'm talking chocolate colored.  Blonde or caramel colored is way too light.  The end result will taste disappointing.  It won't be bad, it just won't taste like the air in Jackson Square.  The trick is to stir it constantly and adjust the heat to it doesn't burn.  I switch between a whisk and a small rubber spatula.  It takes me about 20+ minutes.  I turn the heat to medium and back up again a few times to achieve a dark roux without burning it.
  3. Once you have a dark dark roux, set the heat to medium and add the onion, bell peppers, celery, garlic and parsley.  Stir these in well - it will naturally cool the roux - and cook the veggies for about 7-8 minutes or until they are all softened.
  4. Add the stock, salt, pepper, hot sauce, bay leaf and thyme.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for an 40 minutes. 
  5. Add cooked kale and frozen okra to gumbo. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Meanwhile: spray a skillet with cooking spray and lightly sear the sliced ToFurky sausages on medium high heat, about four minutes - flipping halfway through.
  6. Add the sausage to pot, stir.
  7. Tightly pack cooked rice into a - not too large - ladle (an ice cream scoop also works) and place scoop in center of bowl. Ladle gumbo around rice ball. Top with scallions and a sprinkle of  Filé powder
This makes about 4 or 5 servings.  Doubling this for larger groups works fine. 

Gumbo mixes very well with cold beer.  It doesn't matter what kind.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hot Cuke Soup

A photo posted by Höķm Guerrerø (@revmcnasty) on

If you were like me you are probably used to all cucumber-themed dishes being served cold.  If so, then this will blow your mind.  I found this in a "Healthy Latin Cooking" book I got for Christmas a few years ago.  I never noticed it until my wife was skimming the book and asked me, "Why haven't you made this yet?"  She was right.  I had been ignoring this gem for too long and now we make a batch every month or so.

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper (green or yellow), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cucumbers, peeled and cunt into smallish pieces
3 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP fresh chives or scallions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions, bell peppers, garlic and parsley.  Cook for about 5 minutes. Onions should be soft but not brown.
  2. Add the cucumbers and cook for about 1 or 2 minutes.
  3. Add stock and sour cream.  Increase the heat to high and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and puree with an emulsion blender (or food processor, but my way is less messy.)
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot topped with chives or scallions.
A small amount of chopped fresh dill can be used instead of, or in addition to, the chives/scallions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vegetarian Dirty Quinoa & Rice

Tom Fitzmorris wrote my favorite cookbook.  In it he described dirty rice as jambalaya's less complex brother.  This is my first attempt at adapting his recipe for the non-meat eater.  The results were something special.  The level of heat was perfect and I enjoyed this dish much better than I remember enjoying the meat version.

1/2 large red onion, quartered
1/2 bell pepper (any color), seeded and quartered
1 rib celery, quartered
1 TBSP unsalted butter 
1 tsp Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (regular or low sodium)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
3/4 cup Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles
3/4 cup of black beans, drained and rinsed.
1 scallion sliced thin
grated Cheddar cheese (optional)

  1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Put onion, bell pepper and celery into food processor and finely chop.
  3. Melt butter in large saucepan over high heat and then add the veg mess from processor.  Cook until the onion turns clear.  Add the Creole Seasoning, Worcestershire, crushed red pepper, marjoram and garlic.  Stir to combine.  Bring heat to low and cover.
  4. Put the stock, rice and quinoa into another saucepan and cover.  Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer.  Simmer for about 15-17 minutes.
  5. Stir and fluff the rice/quinoa mixture and add it to the saucepan with the vegetable/spice mixture.  Add the Boca Veggie Ground Crumble and black beans. Stir to combine.
  6. Pour the well-mixed mixture into a small, greased, casserole dish and place in oven.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until dry but not hard.
  7. Top with scallion and cheese (optional).

Time: about 40 minutes from start to finish.
Serves: makes about 4 or 5 side servings.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arugula-Cilantro-Lime Pesto Pasta Salad


For the Pesto:

2.5 cups baby arugula
1 cup cilantro
3 TBSP lime juice
a small chunk of parm (2-3 TBSP worth)
1/2 cup of a nut (i used walnuts)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor (or device equivalent).  Blend.  Add more olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency.  Salt & Pepper to taste.
You can use salted nuts, if that's all you have, but make sure you adjust the added salt to compensate.

For the Pasta:
  1.  Cook a half pound of orzo as directed.  Drain and let cool.
  2.  Add pesto to cover.
  3. Clean out the fridge/cabinets.  This is the fun part; use your imagination!  For mine I added: 2 julienne carrots, 1 julienne zucchini, sliced olives, crumbled Gorgonzola, half of an onion (diced), half a red bell pepper (diced), some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, half a jalapeno (diced), chopped marinated artichoke hearts and a little extra Olive Oil and lime juice.  Add more pesto as needed.  
  4. Let sit in fridge for at least 3 hours before serving for flavors to blend.
  5. Top with roasted chick peas before serving.
Roasted chick peas should not be stored in the fridge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cover Up, Cause I Ain't Playing No Covers...

I'm about at my wits end with being expected to be content playing non-original music.  Don't get me wrong: I love the cover band concept.  It brings together people and genres and all that great feel-good party time stuff.  I play in a great bar band that does mostly covers and people love it.  But, guess what: When the leader breaks out his half dozen originals people like those songs just as much, if not more, then the cover material.  The problem is that no one wants to write anymore.  The creativity is gone from music.

I lead my own group that does a lot of originals and some covers.  Mostly swing and New Orleans covers.  When I say "Lets do this song" the general reaction is "Send me a YouTube link".  I refuse to.  If we, as talented musicians, want to perform non-original material it sure as hell better not sound anything like the original version.  The horn part better be different.  The bridge should have different chords.  The phrasing of the vocals better be unique to the band performing.   

But, my God, if I come across another college age "j***" group who is performing Radiohead or Sound Garden I'm gonna slash their tires.  Just because the songs got  your through your teenage years without successfully killing yourself doesn't mean they are good.

If I see one more set-list that has a great song by Hoagy Carmichael or Cole Porter, but after the title it says "Norah Jones" or "Rod Stewart" within parentheticals I will walk out of the rehearsal.

Those versions belong to that artist.  I do not want someone else recording my reharm of "Days of Wine and Roses" just as I assume Herbie doesn't want someone to release an album of his reworking of "Round Midnight".  They are great learning tools but they have no place in a live set.  What I think is okay is referencing a feel or timbre when working on something new or an interpretation of something old.  Telling the drummer to "Think of a Chuck Brown beat" or describing the attack of Basie's brass section are totally fine.  But don't you dare hand me a chart that says "As recorded by..." at the top.  A good friend of mine is a killer piano-bar type musician and he loves it.  I could never sit doing what he does and I have the utmost respect for his talent, because unlike most others who do the same thing, he refuses to completely bow to the Billy Joel requests all night.  What he does do is creatively arranges.  I once heard him sing a beautiful ballad that I thought was a standard I had never heard of.  But this guy (who is a decade+ older than me) had reworked a Katie Perry song.  A song that was a two chord vamp now had enough changes to make Chick Corea blush.  Hats off to him, because he made a not great song great.

Now there are countless musicians out in the world and I wish all of them success.  But when I'm ask to join a new group I will let it be known that I will not be interested in performing already established material.  I want to be a part in establishing the material.

The world would be a better place with less rehashing and more creating.

Lets do something new.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Baked Beans

Simple and easy...  Grilled Cheese on pumpernickel featuring both pepper jack and Munster cheese, plus diced scallions and a pinch of Tony's Creole seasoning plus a cider vinegar dressed arugula/baby kale/avocado salad.  But what stole the show was the homemade baked beans I did in the slow cooker.  After looking around the internet for recipes I wasn't happy.  Most only offered bottled BBQ sauce as seasoning.  I am avoiding stuff like that because of the high fructose corn syrup and other crazy chemicals.  You can substitute another brand of natural ketchup, I have switched myself, but when I first came up with this recipe the Hunts was the only "all natural" brand that was carried by the chain grocery store that I can walk to.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Baked Beans

2 cans pinto beans, rinsed (or 2/3 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight)
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I like Penzy's Aleppo Flakes)
6 cumin seeds
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup katsup (I like the Hunts "All Natural", no corn syrup or preservatives)
3 TBSP molasses*
3 TBSP cup packed brown sugar
1 TBSP raw honey
1 tsp ground mustard
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 tsp sriracha
dash of liquid smoke (optional... it adds a little "bacony-ness")
Veg stock

  1. If using canned beans: rinse beans until the water runs clean.
  2. Heat 1 TBSP vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute about 7 minutes.  While onions cook add beans to slow cooker. Add tomato paste and stir it in and cook about 2 minutes.  Add pepper flakes, cumin seeds and cayenne.  Bloom for about 30 seconds, add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
  3. Add onion/celery mixture to the beans in the slow cooker.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the stock, and stir to combine.  Add just enough stock to moisten the mixture; it should not be watery AT ALL.  If you are using dried beans instead of canned I find that a little extra stock is needed.
  4. If using canned beans: Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for about 5 hours. 
    If using dried beans: Set slow cooker to HIGH and cook for about 5 hours.

Makes about 4 or 5 side servings.


Friday, April 17, 2015


Recently someone asked me how I am able to book enough gigs to be a truly full-time musician.  Have a half dozen piano students doesn't hurt the bank account, but that income is only about one third of my (always fluctuating) monthly income.  This got me thinking and I realized that I have developed an actual business method and mentality.  At this point it is only a skeleton, but the potential to expand and evolve this concept is high and I will eventually write a longer volume to explain it in full.

First of all, most full-time musicians do not work normal nine-to-five hours.  This breeds an almost reverse lifestyle that is comparable to people in the service industry.  The difference is: most servers and bartenders know they will be working at the same business tomorrow/next week/next month and are able to be "off" when not at work.  (None of us are truly OFF when not working.  I want to be clear: I'm not saying that.)  A few lucky musicians have secured three nights a week at a restaurant/venue but for the rest of us: this does not work for us, so let's start with...


In November of 2011 I started "office hours".  I began with two days a week, 10am until 3pm I forced myself to do "paper work".  I eventually added a third and have enough work to keep it up, although some weeks it is shortened.  A lot of items fall onto the "office to-do" list.  I forced these desk work days on myself so I had to think outside the box and find something more than Netflix and Minesweeper.

After six months I found a rhythm that can be explained as "ONE, SIX, TWENTY-FOUR".

One week.  Seven Days. 

The immediate future.  What are my gigs?  I need to remember to eat! 

It's Tuesday morning (my Office Hours are on Tuesday, and Wednesday).  It's 10:00am. I open my calendar for the first time this week and see:

Thurs.  Duo with sax at retirement home / 7pm
Fri.  Solo piano at the Tavern / 6pm
Sat.  Duo with bassist / wedding reception cocktail / 2pm
Sat.  High Rollers at the Green Dragon / 9pm
Sun.  Jazz brunch with bassist and sax / 11:30am-3pm.
Mon.  Piano students at 11am, 1pm, 3:45pm, 4:30pm, 5:30pm

The first thing I do I send an e-mail, or phone call if e-mail is not an option - I like e-mail because then you have a hard copy if you were given a bad address, phone number, or even paid incorrectly.  In this email I list every detail known to the gig.  (Details explained in the SIX section.)  Make sure you either bring a printed copy of this email or have it easily accessible on a phone or tablet device at your gig.

Next I confirm everything with any musicians involved with gigs that week.  If it's my gig I e-mail/call each musician I hired.  If I am a sideman I confirm the details with who hired me.  Also confirm what you paying/getting paid so the end of the night is smooth.  Sometimes I hand out check when the musicians are setting up.  I date the check a few days later to ensure that the check I am given has cleared.  It's your call.
Always look at how your schedule affects your family and your body.  If my wife is working late I note that I need to feed the cats before I leave the house at 6pm.  If you have kids: look at the baby-sitting arrangements, if you haven't already.  If I have two or more gigs in the same day I need to make the proper arrangements to eat lunch and/or dinner.  Always remember to eat.  Performing is a very physical activity and alcohol is usually poured liberally if you are "in the band".  The combination of all that plus skipping a meal (or two) can be dangerous.

Six weeks.  A month-and-a-half.  Forty-five days.

I should already have about 70% of my gigs already booked at this point. 

The higher paying and/or high profile gigs (weddings, parties, corporate, festivals, etc) are booked months in advance and these gigs usually have the most to deal with.  Look at everything you need for the gig.  This includes: band members, sound system, monitors, special equipment/rentals, special requested material from the client, is there a back line (this is when something is provided for you, ie: drum set, piano, PA system, etc), does the band need charts, do horn parts need writing/altering, are the songs in the right key for the singer, does it make sense to car-pool, do you need to provide a sound-man (something I suggest for weddings or any gig is larger rooms), is the gig/travel time long enough that the leader should provide food for band, what are parking arrangements, lodging, tolls, load-in time, sound check, load-out time (if out of state: can you leave equipment in club until next morning, ensuring more sleep/rest/down time?), sharing equipment with another band on the bill.  And the most important: Do I need to obtain and special permit for my performance.  Many places require submission up to four weeks ahead of time.  Remember to confirm what you are getting paid.

This is an important subcategory of  SIX.  If you are not graphically savvy… learn something or email me (  You will want to have posters made for any shows that need them. Take all these things and create a document on your computer.  One for each gig.  Put them in folders by year and sort them with an extensive naming system beginning with the date.  For example a wedding on June 23, 2013 would be found in 2013 labeled: 06232013.doc.  Sometimes I will add the word WEDDING after the number, or a band name if it's a specific group.  Something to make at-a-glace searching easy to do.

Twenty-four weeks.  Six months.
It's January and my June calendar is empty, save for that one wedding I have known about since October.  I need to find work!

Talk to any place you already play, or have played recently.  Ask them if they have looked at their June calendar.  Even if their answer is NO they can respond with, "Actually, while I have you on the phone: I had a cancellation for the second Saturday next month.  Is your band free?" Once you get a feel for the places you already know about It's time to find possible new venues.  Search the calendars of similar bands/musicians.  Also look at the calendars of the venues you already gig at.  Look at the other bands that play there and find their websites.  Does a similar act play at a place you've never heard of?  I spend hours every month trolling these other sites. 

Remember this: you will only hear back from one third of places you send press kits/inquiries to.  Of the ones that respond only one third will express interest and only half of those end up in gigs. 

In other words: If I reach out to 30 places regarding potential gigs only 10 will respond.  Of that, 6 or 7 will decline or "keep you on file for the future" (which some actually do and will surprise you one day with a call).  You will get three responses saying "We love you", "You would fit perfectly here".  You will reply and only hear back with dates from one of those three.  Remind the other two interested venues a few weeks later with a "Just following up" email.

Don't get frustrated.  The booking process is the hardest part of being a working musician (besides the obligatory "band drama").  This is also the part when you get the chance to look the most professional.  Once you establish yourself at a level of professionalism that is above and beyond other musicians you will get more calls.  You will be able to charge more.  You will be able to pay your band more.  You will be able to get a professional recording/demo instead of the one you made at home using Garage Band.  In short: you will be an actual step closer to being a successful independent musician.

Always remember to share what you know with other musicians.  I have gotten some great gigs with the help of someone else, a little more well known, sending an email introducing me to the booking agent of a venue.  One time I played a gig and I could tell I wasn't the right fit for.  I suggested a friend of mine and he was immediately at home.  Was I upset I aided in loosing my own gig?  Hell no!  Another restaurant is more likely to add live music if they experience it working somewhere else.  In the long-term: His success can only help me!