I Have Taken a Lover, the iPad

The One (Who Brings Me Love, Joy, and Happiness) likes to joke that I have a boyfriend: my Apple laptop. His comment, wrapped in a crackling tempura coating of snark, is usually lobbed my way if my surfing squashes one of our regularly scheduled activities, like betting on which people featured on “Antiques Roadshow” will fake excitement when auction estimates of their family treasures don’t live up to their expectations. Although I hate to admit it, when the computer blinkers are on, it’s like a stolen glance from across the room. Suddenly I’m sucked into wormhole after wormhole of technological eye candy, bewitched by the pixel, lost in the throes of m4v grandeur.

I’ve been hearing this you-have-a-boyfriend rant for years now, ever since I bought my first laptop in 1993. And if The One’s comment is true, then my past is littered with all sorts and sizes of boy toys: the hairy brute with tats on his arms and legs (my G4 desktop tower), a dandy with a penchant for bright colors (my tangerine iMac G3), and my current fascination, the sleek, handsome, and understated silver fox (my 17-inch MacBook Pro).

But if my laptop is my boyfriend, then my iPad is definitely my lover. You know the kind—that slender iTalian in a black Armani suit who has a gun-slinger walk, is just a tad bit louche, lights your cigarette by bringing it up to his, and haunts your reverie years after the last time you tumbled out of his bed. Read more »

When a Stranger Cooks Your Food

I lost my virginity to Ron Leal. It happened recently, in the waning weeks of my fourth decade. The One was there, watching every move, every nuance on my face, as were four others, including Joseph Montebello, Ron’s partner. It wasn’t weird or freaky. In fact, it was one of the sweetest moments in memory: It was the first time someone—a virtual stranger, no less—cooked my food and served it to me and others at a dinner party.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There have been a few times that chefs have cooked from my book—most notably at the Quail Valley Country Club, in Vero Beach, FL. Chef Joe Faria whipped up a three-course dinner from The New Portuguese Table for 70 people. And it was exceptional, extraordinary. But the thing is: I expected it to be exceptional and extraordinary. He’s a chef, after all. But Ron is an ordinary guy of Portuguese descent whom I’ve met just once before, and he had the cojones to invited us over for an intimate evening of food, fun, gossip—all based upon my book.

From what I’ve been told, this is, without a doubt, an experience a cookbook author assiduously wants to avoid. Think about it: What if the cook can’t cook? What if there isn’t a dog I can surreptitiously feed my food to—or there is, but I do so too quickly and unwittingly encourage a heaping pile of seconds? What if the food just plain sucks? I’m no good at lying—blame it on Momma and Poppa Leite. In fact, I’m pathologically predisposed to creating astoundingly awkward moments as I tell you you’re falling out of your dress, you’re marrying the wrong woman, or you have a booger hanging from your nose—all of which I’ve done. (Note to self: Maybe that’s why we have so few friends.) No, this is a situation best avoided. Read more »

Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce

Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Every year I make Sarah Foster’s  Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs, and they’re always a hit. But the weird thing is I always opted for bottled barbecue sauce. With so many bbq sauces out there, I reasoned, why the hell add more stress to my already stressed-out afternoon? (Can you tell I get stressed a lot when I cook?)

This year, though, I decided to put on my big boy pants and make her chipotle maple barbecue sauce from scratch–the sauce that she recommends for her ribs. It was a dump-and-stir recipe. Simple, easy, fast. The flavors were terrific—the slap of the vinegar, the smoky heat from the chipotle, and the sweetness of the brown sugar and maple syrup. Everything blended together quite well. There’s also a big wallop of tomato due to a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. You can soften that, if you want, with a squirt or two of ketchup.

A few additions we made to this, which I think improved it mightily:  We added a big glug of bourbon to the sauce as well as about 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate. (Personally, I think a bit more bourbon wouldn’t have hurt—and I’m not even a bourbon lover!) Then I reduced by a little more than a quarter as I prefer a thicker sauce. It was excellent. The problem: I was cavalier and took a nap while the ribs cooked, so they were far more tender than they should have been. It gave new meaning to “falling-off-the-bone tender.” Next time, I’ll make sure to be all rested before I tackle Foster’s ribs. But cut me some slack: Those Fourth of July gin and tonics were calling my name all afternoon. Damn sirens. Read more »

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