Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN’S FRESH CORN SALAD WITH MEXICAN FLAVORS

CHUCKMAN’S FRESH CORN SALAD
A delicious way to use fresh corn

SALAD:
4 Cobs of fresh Corn
1 medium Zucchini quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small Red Sweet Pepper diced finely
1 medium Red Onion finely chopped
2 Stalks Celery finely sliced

DRESSING:
1 Lime – zest and juice – use two limes if you want a strong Lime flavor
2 Tbls Rice Vinegar
1 Tbls Chilli Powder
Tabasco sauce – several shakes or to taste
Fresh Cilantro – several sprigs finely chopped
Oil sufficient for a dressing - at least 2:1 to acids

Sea Salt coarse

METHOD:

Cut corn off cleaned cobs. Combine with other chopped vegetables and set aside.

Mix dressing but leave until ready to serve salad so that Lime does not dehydrate vegetables. Sprinkle coarse Salt when serving.

NOTE: I use old glass spice bottles with screw tops to mix dressings, putting in ingredients, closing top, and shaking vigorously. Works nicely, and you can store any leftover.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW OF PETER GREEN'S ALEXANDER TO ACTIUM

Here indeed is a difficult book to review: it is so obviously a work of impressive scholarship, yet it has a number of notable shortcomings.

The comment has been made in other reviews that Green is an elegant writer, but I believe that only superficial readers or the author's friends and associates would say that. Green's writing has important and obvious flaws that prevent the book from being what it might have been.

While he sometimes offers elegant sentences, he too often offers convoluted sentences or sentences stuffed like long, fat sausages, sometimes even diverging from the subject in the course of setting down his words. He also maintains a rather superior gesturing in his prose. I know the effect Green likely hoped he was achieving - the majesty of Edward Gibbon or Thomas Macaulay - but he just does not succeed.

He is often an extremely pedantic writer, generously sprinkling his text with words and phrases not just from Greek and Latin but German and French, and always selecting obscure words or Latinisms where solid Anglo-Saxon words would serve better.

There are indeed times when a foreign expression captures the special sense of a concept that a translation may loose, and I have no objection to their use where that is true, but that is not the case here.

I very much object to the gratuitous use of foreign words and phrases to display an author's learning, something which makes the work less accessible to many while simply annoying others with a gimmick related to the use of "as the eminent, such-and-such prize-winner once said..." to bolster a quoted source's authority (something Green spares us). The effects are poisonous in a work of this nature.

Yet Green knows a great deal about his subject, and I certainly learned from him despite the faults. His interpretation of the Hellenistic world after Alexander as representing a decay and gradual departure from (reaching almost a bastardization of) Greece's true classical period is interesting, and he mounts some strong supporting evidence for the view.

The book is not properly understood as a history, because large portions of it are arguments of positions on historical or philosophical or esthetic or moral issues. There's nothing wrong with that, but potential readers should be aware of the fact.

There is such a huge cast of characters involved in the three great divisions of Alexander's conquests over a couple of centuries that one loses track of some of them in the narrative, many of course being minor or simply having left few records, but one might have hoped for a clearer, more sustained narrative of the truly important figures. There is a sense of fragmentation here which may be just the fault of a fragmentary record.

There is a considerable difference in Green's success in explaining some events. He sometimes leaves you mentally saying, "Yes, indeed," while other times he leaves you saying, "What?"

Despite the flaws, this is a significant book and one worth reading by anyone interested in the Hellenistic era and in the successors to the dead Alexander and in the rise of imperial Rome.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW OF ARNALDUR INDRIDASON'S ARCTIC CHILL

I am not a traditionally a reader of mysteries, but since my wife introduced me to selected writers, there are a few to whose new books I quite look forward.

Scandinavian writers of this genre appeal a great deal. After all, part of what we get from any novel is being taken into a world we do not know, and the place and people names of Scandinavia are exotic and fascinating. Also, there is a great touch of humanity in the stories coming from Scandinavian writers, quite in distinction to some well-known, hard-boiled American writers whose fiction I find almost unreadable.

Norway's Karin Fossum is chief among the Scandinavians, being a writer and storyteller of top quality, but I enjoy Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason too. His first books were not in the same class with Fossum's, but with Arctic Chill, he rises to a new level of quality. This is fine and gripping book, an interesting tale with many twists and turns.

Indridason weaves several plots together here and manages them with great skill. The two criminal cases - a murder and a separate missing person - actually nicely reinforce each other and are used to introduce some interesting complexities.

Indridason is always a clear writer, but this book introduces a new level of sophistication in his storytelling. We still have his intelligent, very human, and sympathic detective, Erlendur, a man with whom we feel it might be nice to spend some time discussing the human condition. We still have the wonderfully forbidding weather and brooding landscape of Iceland as major characters.

This is a book you will not want to put down. Highly recommended.

Monday, May 04, 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN'S ZESTIEST LENTIL SOUP

MY ZESTIEST LENTL SOUP

1 Pound dry Red Lentils
2 Boxes Beef Stock
1 pound of Spanish Chorizo Sausage – Sweet – sliced thinly
1 large Onion - diced
1 large Green Pepper - diced
2 medium Carrots – sliced thinly
2 stalks of Celery – sliced thinly
Hungarian Sweet Paprika – at least two tablespoons, more if you like
Salt – to taste
Pepper – coarsely ground – at least 1 teaspoon

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and add Lentils. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain with a strainer and add to the Beef Stock in a large soup pan.

Saute Onions and Carrots until softened. Add Green Pepper and Celery to cook a briefer time. Add Paprika to vegetables and continue cooking a brief time to work in all the Paprika with oil and cook through.

Add Onions, Carrots, Green Pepper, Celery to pot of Beef Stock.

Add Chorizo slices to frying pan and briefly sauté. Then add to Stock. Add pepper.

Simmer for at least fifteen minutes, longer if you like something closer to a porridge consistency with much softened vegetables.

Great with yogourt.