Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

Today’s Musings:
I wrote the following a month ago, never knowing that Bill Cosby would be released a mere dozen days later. 

I’ve never been a fan of Gloria Allred.  It may be remnants of my father’s utter dislike for this brash, outspoken, opinionated woman.  The fairer sex, he believed, belongs in the H. O. M. E.  not marching with a sign that says, “N. O. W.”  Of course,  if Gloria was named Glen,  my dad would see him as a “man’s man” and wholeheartedly embrace him.   I’ve changed my tune about Gloria. I gained a new appreciation for Ms. Allred after recently watching the 2018 documentary, Seeing Allred. Is she loud?  Is she brash?  Is she a publicity hound?  Yes,  but perhaps she needs that persona to be heard above the din of the persistent, ever-present inequality in America.  The Bill Cosby sexual abuse scandal takes up a fair portion of the documentary.  What surprised me was the number of women who spoke up with similar stories and yet, when the first handful of victims came forward,  the majority of Americans didn’t believe – “Oh no,  not Bill Cosby,  not Cliff Huxtable, not America’s dad.” “These women just want money or they’re actresses looking for publicity.”  In the court of public opinion,  these women were shredded for shining a light on something no one wanted to see.   The tide didn’t seem to turn until dozens of women stepped forward, and, still,  those women faced vicious attacks from disbelievers.  It reminds me of the accusations regarding Michael Jackson in Finding Neverland.  Michael still retains a huge, die-hard fan base, despite shockingly similar stories of sexual abuse from disparate victims. “We love you, Michael. We believe in you.”  Fans need to understand that the public Michael Jackson isn’t the Michael behind closed doors.  I believe the accusers – and you should, too. 

If you perform a Google search,  one of the top three definitions of sexual assault is,  “an act in which one person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.”   If you were to ask me if I’ve been sexually assaulted,  I would answer, “Thankfully, no,”  imagining date rape or a stranger jumping out from behind a tree,  but the truer answer would be an ambiguous, “Maybe.”

I willingly entered Ted’s house.  I happily drank wine with him, becoming a little tipsy – not incapacitatedly drunk,  but tipsy…two or three glasses.  I voluntarily joined him in his bedroom to fool around (his roommate was on the couch).  Yet,  I  did not come over, nor was I prepared, to have sex that night. He had different plans.  He tried to take our make-out session further, I rebuffed him.  He attempted  to take it further a second time, I rebuffed again, and again, and again. I never consented.  Did he force me down and rip off my clothes?  No, but  I remember feeling like a 16-year-old Sophomore in a car’s back seat fighting off a hormone-fueled Senior’s attack  – except I was 37; Ted was 41.  He was bigger; he was stronger; he wasn’t letting up.  I eventually acquiesced, tired of trying to redirect his energies.  You are probably asking,

“You are a strong, independent woman.  Why didn’t you just get up and leave?” 

That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position.  I will share my thoughts at the time.  Are these excuses for my inaction? No, but they provide context,  perspective.  I didn’t leave because I  thought I liked this man.  I didn’t shove him away with force because I was attracted to this man.   I didn’t jump up from the bed because I wanted to have sex with this man – but not yet, not that night.  If I had jumped off the bed, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my purse and ran out,  I have no doubt he would have let me leave;  he wouldn’t have pursued.  He probably would have told his friends I was a crazy bitch, but he wouldn’t have brutalized me.   Yet,  doesn’t my “no” mean “no?” I never told a living soul this story until today,  18 years after the event. 

Which reminds me of the time I went to my GP for my annual physical.  I had been seeing this doctor for 8 years, believed him to be an excellent medical professional, and I trusted him.  During my physical,  he insisted on a pelvic exam.  I assured him it was unnecessary because my OB/GYN performed a pelvic exam just six months prior – and all tests came back normal.  Yet,  with his medical “authority,” he dismissed my declination (the OB/GYN’s report was not in his notes)  and pushed for the exam I didn’t want.

Are you once again asking, “You are a strong, independent woman.  Why didn’t you get up and leave?” 

That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position.  I didn’t get up and leave because he was my doctor, an expert in a position of power.  I didn’t firmly tell him, “Absofuckinglutely not,” because I had been in his care as a patient for eight years without incident.  I rationalized, “why make a big deal about this – it’s not the first nor last pelvic I’ll endure.” I acquiesced.  If I had jumped off the examining room table, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my clothes and ran out,  I have no doubt he would have allowed me to leave;  he wouldn’t have  blocked the exit.  He probably would have told the nurses I was an overly sensitive, sexually-repressed woman, but he wouldn’t have forced me.  He performed the pelvic exam…without a female nurse present – any woman knows that’s an odd and uncommon practice.  The exam itself seemed routine.  I couldn’t actually see what he was doing,  but nothing overtly untoward felt like it was happening.  Yet, afterwards,  I felt violated.  I did not give him my consent.  Was this merely a case of an overzealous, egotistical  doctor dismissing my declination of  the exam in favor of his own medical decision – or something more perverse?  I truly don’t know, but I left his office questioning the experience and feeling ashamed and invaded.  For my next annual physical,  I found a new doctor – a woman.  I told her why I left my previous MD – said I didn’t know if his actions were malevolent or not, but I refused to be his patient any longer.  Besides her,  I never told another person until today. 

Have I ever been sexually assaulted?  What is your answer –  because I truly don’t know?  But, please,  if someone (male or female)  is brave enough to step forward with an accusation of abuse, sexual or otherwise, – listen to them, believe them.  You weren’t in the room with them, you don’t know all sides of the person you are defending.  The victim may have experienced a side of the abuser you’ve never seen.  Mr. Wonderful, Bill Cosby, may not be so wonderful behind closed doors when there’s something he wants.  “But what about the false claims of abuse that are just payback for something else altogether?” you ask.  Do false sexual abuse accusations arise?  Absolutely,  but don’t assume the aberrant is the norm.  Many easier and less humiliating methods of extracting payback exist.  It takes courage to speak up and speak out.  One must have thick skin to endure the disbelievers, the hostile opponents who will shout “liar” from their soapbox,  turn their back on the victim. His friends will try to silence the victim insisting, even if it did happen, the victim should keep quiet, not rock the boat,  just get over it.  “How dare you speak out and sully the abuser’s reputation!”  The victim is acutely aware they must go to battle and, even then, they may still not be believed. If it takes a victim 10, 20, 30 years to come forward to tell their story, to speak their truth,  we must have compassion and understand that the event was not only traumatic, but confusing,  embarrassing, and perhaps not clear cut. The abused often feels partially responsible; They may fear the retaliation from the abuser’s fans or cadre.  The victim, however,  can’t “just get over it.”  They’ve carried the incident with them;  They haven’t forgotten.  They’ve been carefully weighing the benefits versus the damage speaking up will cause – lines will be drawn; sides will be taken.   They’ve been physically and/or emotionally assaulted once;  they don’t deserve to endure that again.   I’m not suggesting we label every possible abuser, “guilty until proven innocent,” but also, we mustn’t  insist that 20 victims come forward before we believe the first who was brave enough to say, “I was abused.” 

Today’s Recipe:

 


Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

This is my go-to appetizer to bring to a drinks party, nostalgic with a modern twist.


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons drained pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 dashes hot sauce, such as Tapitio
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, cut into 8 pieces each

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, celery, pickle relish, scallion, blue cheese, Dijon, hot sauce and black pepper to taste.
  2. Slice eggs in half and scoop yolks into mayonnaise mixture. Combine yolks and mayonnaise mixture with a folk until well blended.
  3. Using a large star tip nozzle, pipe mixture into egg halves. Decorate with bacon and serve.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

A plate of sausage stuffed mushrooms

I wrote this post a few months ago, when socializing with family, friends and neighbors was a typical part of life and not a longed-for luxury. During those simpler times, I made this recipe for two separate get-togethers. I re-read this post today and I’m dumbfounded by the difference in today’s reality. Oh, how life in the midst of COVID has changed…

I’ve never been adept at making friends with women. The language of female bonding has always been foreign to me. As a result, I’ve only had a couple of close female friends in my life, women who somehow understood me even though I lacked some essential female bonding gene. Last year, that all changed, when I seemingly discovered my nascent estrogen bonding abilities, resulting in new friendships. Two women, in particular, I’m pleased to call not only neighbors, but genuine friends. It all started last year, at an impromptu progressive New Year’s Eve party, and has blossomed into regular happy hours, food sharing, and celebrations. I’m excited when I discover a text suggesting “Wine Down Wednesday” or a happy hour get together, which always results in copious amounts of wine, bellies full of cheese, and plenty of laughs…

Tonight is one of those nights and, in support of one of those lovely women who is currently “Keto for a Cause,” I’ve made these Keto-friendly stuffed mushrooms to pair with our coconut vodka cocktails. It’s sure to be another fun night!


Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Servings: 24 Mushrooms
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Mushroom caps stuffed with sausage, cream cheese and Parmesan – Keto-friendly and tasty!


Ingredients

  • 3 Italian hot sausages, casings removed (if using mild sausage, add ¼ teaspoon chili flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 24 large crimini mushrooms, stemmed

Directions

  1. Sauté sausage, sage, and thyme in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through and brown, breaking into small pieces with back of fork, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-minute more. Set aside and allow to cool. Mix in ½ Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix in egg yolk.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking dish. Fill each mushroom cap with scant 1 tablespoon filling and sprinkle with some of remaining Parmesan cheese. Arrange mushrooms, filling side up, in prepared dish. Bake uncovered until mushrooms are tender and filling is brown on top, about 25 minutes. Finish under a broiler, if needed. Serve warm.


Adapted from this recipe from Epicurious.

Nectarine Bruschetta

Nectarine Bruschetta is an easy-to-assemble, no-oven-required, summer appetizer that takes advantage of the season’s bounty and pairs well with white wine, rosé and bubbles.

Nectarine and Ricotta Bruschetta

Just as July 4th in my neighborhood is certain to be punctuated with a cacophony of illegal fireworks, the same holiday never fails to produce my nectarine tree’s first juicy orbs ready for plucking. The harvest is brief, yet prolific, and I’m often overwhelmed with the task of making use of this summer bounty.

A warm evening cocktail party and a very pregnant tree resulted in this recipe that’s perfect for summer, taking advantage of the season’s gifts in a simple, no-oven-required, appetizer.


Nectarine Bruschetta

An easy to assemble, summer appetizer that pairs well with white wine and bubbles.


Ingredients

  • 2-3 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • ⅔ cup whole milk ricotta
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 24 toasted baguette slices
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped hazelnuts or pistachios, toasted

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine nectarines, basil and balsamic and set aside.
  2. In another small bowl, combine ricotta, honey, zest, salt and pepper.
  3. To assemble, spread ricotta over baguette slices, arrange 1 or 2 nectarine slices over ricotta and sprinkle with toasted nuts. Serve.

Fromage Fort

Fromage fort – a fabulously thrifty and tasty French solution for repurposing all those nubs of leftover cheese.

a bowl of fromage fort with chips
Giving credit where it’s due, this was my sister S’s suggestion – not her recipe, but her idea. On Boxing Day, I was grumbling about a refrigerator full of holiday leftovers, including the six different cheeses rapidly aging in the cheese drawer. What was I going to do with six nubs of various cheese before they went bad?

That’s when she mentioned fromage fort. Fromage fort is a French cheese spread, literally meaning “strong cheese,” that’s made by blending together various pieces of leftover cheese, a bit of leftover white wine, garlic, and herbs. There’s a dozen of recipes out there – Pépin, Smitten Kitchen, Alton Brown, David Lebovitz, Sauver – all very similar, all very adaptable, because the idea is to use whatever leftovers you have on hand, making this thrifty French solution for too much cheese more spectacular than the sum of its parts. I recommend steering clear of very strong cheese, like blue cheese, which will overwhelm all other flavors in the final dip.

Oh, and there’s a German version, too – mixed with beer (of course!) – called Obatzda.


Fromage Fort

  • Servings: about 2 cups
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A fabulously thrifty and tasty French solution for repurposing all those nubs of leftover cheese.


Ingredients

  • 8 oz. mixed leftover cheeses (hard cheese grated, soft cheese cubed)
  • 3 Tablespoons full-fat ricotta, or 2 Tablespoons softened butter (if you don’t have ricotta on hand)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ¼- ⅓ cup white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, blend cheese, ricotta (or butter) and garlic until well-blended.
  2. Slowly pour in wine with motor running until the desired consistency – I prefer a scoopable, yet slightly chunk spread. Add thyme and pepper and pulse until combined. Fromage fort can be used immediately, allowed to ripen for up to 5 days, or spread on bread and toasted in the oven.

Bacon Gruyère Gougères

Bacon, Gruyère cheese, and  crispy, light choux pastry. I fell in love with gougères in culinary school – I’ve gilded the lily with the addition of bacon.  Appetizers as glamorous as they are delicious.

Bacon and Cheese Puffs

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville

You may think of book clubs as a bunch of shy, mild-mannered, nerdy types – and that may be true…until someone starts stealing our schtick, then we get all gangster.

If you’ve been following this blog with any regularity, you might remember that I started a book club in January, meeting at a local downtown bar & restaurant. It’s been my pet project, and reasonably successful.

A few months ago, I noticed someone else launched a similarly-named book club that happened to meet just 325 feet from our location (coincidence?). While, at the time, I did feel slightly encroached upon, I also thought, “That’s okay. There’s plenty of readers to go around. Good luck to them.” We were meeting monthly on the second Tuesday; the newbies were meeting weekly on Wednesdays. There was enough dissimilarity between our two groups that new members wanting to join our club wouldn’t (I hoped) be confused.

Today I noticed that, starting next month, this copy-cat usurper club will start meeting monthly on the second Tuesday – at the exact same time as our group. So, not only did they copy our name and steal our location, now they are appropriating our dates and times, too. I’m quite surprised they haven’t pilfered our reading list as well. WTF?!

I’ve heard the idiom, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” a million times, but this is downright thievery. I am not flattered. I no longer wish them luck – I wish their ersatz book club a swift and immediate demise. In fact, next month, I’m suggesting a pre-book club brawl to my group. I’m confident we could take them down.

Speaking of imitation and idea-pilfering, the following is not my own, but a riff on a ubiquitous gougères recipe. Guilty as charged.


Bacon Gruyère Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

These are best served piping hot from the oven. If needed, reheat at 350˚ until warm and crisp.


Ingredients

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 3 Tablespoons chives, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, milk butter and salt to a boil. Add the sifted flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until dough pulls away from the side of the pan and becomes a smooth ball. Continue stirring about two minutes to dry out dough.
  2. Transfer dough to the bowl of a mixer. Let cool a few minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the pepper, nutmeg, cheese, bacon, and chives.
  3. Transfer the dough into a piping bag and cut the tip to allow piping generous tablespoon-size mounds about 2” apart on the baking sheets (alternately, drop rounded spoonfuls onto sheets). With a wet finger, tap down any pointy “hats” on the dough. Sprinkle with additional cheese and bake 20-22 minutes until puffed, firm to the touch, and a rich golden brown (do not open oven before 20 minutes or they may deflate). Serve hot.