Truth be told, if I had my druthers, I would choose to be alone. No, I do not hate, distrust or fear other folks. I am simply more comfortable with my own company. Life being what it is, I have to cope in a populated world. But, to do so completely robs me of energy and spirit. I have learned to adapt. I have learned to adopt various personae to confront the challenges of a public life. Yet, when all is said and done, I need solitude to regain my vitality.
How can I explain, therefore, the scattered moments of loneliness and isolation? This is my frustration. While I am more likely than not to refuse an invitation, I feel overlooked and abandoned when not included. How do I convey to others that I am neither a snob nor a boor; that I would love to be asked, even if I find it hard to accept. Indeed, a paradox. Indeed, a source of great discomfort. One would think that, at my age, I would have figured it all out by now.
In response to several requests, I will be posting all my recipes here in one place. Enjoy!
From Peter’s Kitchen
@ 2013 Peter A. Franzi
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
Note: I recommend using all fresh ingredient for the salad and vinaigrette. Canned beets and oranges can be substituted for the salad and frozen orange juice for the vinaigrette with less than stunning results.
8 Medium Beets (I suggest Golden or Chioggia or any of the white or striped varieties.. the common red beet will bleed significantly and may overpower the oranges.)
5 Medium Blood Oranges (any orange can substitute for a different flavor combination).
1 Medium Red onion
1/3 cup White Balsamic Vinegar (Any white wine vinegar may be substituted. I don’t recommend red wine or cider vinegar, but it’s your call).
Zest from one orange
Juice from one orange
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 ½ cup olive oil.
Cook beets completely covered in boiling water for 40 minutes for al dente, 60 minutes to completely cook. Check at 30 minutes with fork to gauge. Allow to cool. Peel and cut into 1/8 ‘s. Remove peel from 4 oranges and divide into segments. Peel and slice onion into very thin slices. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, zest from one orange (grate before cutting for juice), juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil gradually, whisking until vinaigrette is emulsified (Adjust amount of oil used to your own taste.) Pour over beet/orange/onion mixture. Toss. Refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. Enjoy.
Corn Chowder with Chicken and Ham
4 lbs (64 oz) cut corn, fresh or frozen
1 quart milk
2 tablespoons olive or any cooking oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic. minced
2 green or red bell peppers. finely diced (optional)
1/2 pound chopped ham
1/2 pound shredded cooked chicken breast
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
SautÈ onions, celery and (optional) peppers in stock pot or large dutch oven over medium heat. Do not brown the mixture. When onions are soft, add garlic. Reduce heat to low. Cover and continue cooking while preparing corn. Stir occasionally.
In a blender or food processor, puree 3 lbs corn with milk, 1 lb at a time with 1 cup milk. (If using frozen corn, defrost before pureeing.) When mixture is smooth, transfer to pot. Add remaining 1 lb corn kernels and milk. Stir thoroughly. Bring mixture to slow simmer. Add ham and chicken and seasoning. Combine ingredients well. Cook until thoroughly heated and serve.
NOTE: Do not bring soup to the boil or overcook as the corn will become tough. The soup may be frozen immediately after the ingredients are combined. I find that 1-quart freezer bags work well, making sure enough space is left in the bag to allow for expansion. Defrost before reheating.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
12 Bell Peppers
3 lbs ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, sausage or combination of any)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or any cooking oil)
2 lrg onions coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 stalks celery diced
2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 cup dried parsley flakes
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups bread or cracker crumbs
1 cup grated cheese (parmesan, Romano, asiago or combination of any)
salt and pepper to taste
Cut tops from peppers, 1/2 inch from stem,. Clean thoroughly. Parboil or steam 8 prepared peppers for 2 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Dice remaining 4 peppers and set aside.
Brown ground meat, drain and set aside.
Remove drippings from pot. Add oil. SautÈ onions, diced peppers and celery over medium heat. When onions are slightly browned, add garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Stir in herbs until combined. Add in browned meat, mixing thoroughly, and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Stir in bread or cracker crumbs. Remove from heat. Mix in eggs, taking care not to scramble them in the process. Add cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Let mixture cool.
Preheat oven to 350ƒ.
Stuff the prepared peppers. Top each with a sprinkling of bread crumbs or your favorite pasta sauce.
Bake in covered baking dish for 45 minutes. Remove cover. Continue cooking 15 minutes longer.
NOTE: Stuffed peppers may be frozen before baking. I find a one-gallon freezer bag will hold 4 peppers. Make sure the peppers are completely defrosted before baking.
2 lb frozen or fresh tortellini
3 green onions chopped
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms sliced
1 can large black olives
Chiffonade* of fresh basil leaves (10)
16 oz Italian salad dressing (bottled – I recommend Bernstein’s – or homemade)
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
Cook tortellini al dente (follow package directions). Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Drain completely. Combine tortellini with remaining ingredients. Toss well. Refrigerate overnight. Toss again before serving. If mixture is too dry, add more dressing, 1/2 cup at a time.
* Stack basil leaves and roll lengthwise, creating a straw. Slice along the width, making fine strips.
Stuffed Pasta Shells Florentine a la Pietro
Preheat oven to 350ƒ
15-20 Large pasta shells (you may also use manicotti)
1 lb ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, Italian sausage or combination)
1 large onion (red or yellow), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
10 leaves fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup fresh parsley (or 3 tbsp dried)
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cup grated parmesan, Romano, or asiago cheese
1 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
4 cups (approx) tomato pasta sauce
Cook shells al dente according to package directions. Rinse with cold water. Allow to cool.
Brown ground meat. Make sure meat is broken into very small bits. Remove from pot and drain well. Remove drippings from pot. SautÈ onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add basil, parsley and dried herbs. Cook on low heat for 3 minutes. Add meat and spinach. Stir in nutmeg. Mix ingredients thoroughly . Continue cooking until most the moisture from the spinach has evaporated. Remove pot from heat and add beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, taking care that egg does not scramble. Add the bread crumbs and one cup of the grated cheese. Mix thoroughly. Mixture should be consistency of thick paste. If mixture is too dry, add another egg – if too moist, add more bread crumbs, 1/4 cup at a time. Cool to room temperature.
Coat bottom of baking dish with sauce. (Baking dish should be at least 1 1/2″ deep.) Fill each shell with approximately 3 tsp of filling. Arrange stuffed shells with open side down on sauce coated baking dish. Make sure to leave at least 1/2 inch space between shells. Completely cover each shell with sauce, then remaining cheese. Bake in 350ƒ oven for 25 minutes or until sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Oven Fried Pecan Chicken
1/2 cup biscuit mix
1/2 cup ground pecans
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 (2-3 lb, or however much you want) chicken pieces
Combine first 5 ingredients, mixing well; set aside. Melt butter in a baking dish. Dredge chicken in pecan mixture, and
place in the prepared dish. Bake uncovered at 350ƒ for 30 mins. Turn chicken over and bake n additional 30 mins. or until done. Voila!!
White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pecans
2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (12 oz) white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots or dried fruit of your choice)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375ƒ
In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in chips, oats, fruit and nuts. Drop by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8-10 minutes: cool on wire rack.
Makes 5-6 dozen cookies
3 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift together dry ingredients; set aside.
Beat butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until completely incorporated.
Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough between pieces of waxed paper (or on a lightly floured surface) until 1/4-inch thick. Cut out cookies; place on ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until almost firm.
Banana Date Bread
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup pitted dates, snipped
1 cup ripe bananas (about three), mashed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large (9-inch by 5-inch) loaf pan.
Sift together first six ingredients. Stir in sugar and nuts. In separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Add to dry ingredients; mix until all dry ingredients are moistened.
Pour into prepared pan; bake one hour. Let cool in pan five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies
These cookies are very adaptable. If you prefer chewy cookies, roll them thick; if you like your cookies crispy, roll them thin. Cut them into shapes appropriate to the season, and sprinkle with colored sugar before baking for a festive touch. Note: You can easily mix the dough in a mixer, rather than using a food processor. Makes about 30 cookies.
1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly grease baking sheets.
Place flour, cinnamon, and salt in work bowl of food processor; pulse five or six times until blended. Remove to a small bowl. Process butter and brown sugar about 30 seconds, scraping down sides once or twice, until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and process about 10 seconds to blend. Add flour mixture and pulse six to eight times, just until blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour or overnight. (Dough may also be frozen up to a month.)
Roll out dough, half at a time, to 1/8-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter and place cookies two inches apart on baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake seven to eight minutes until firm and just beginning to darken at edges. Cool on wire racks.
1 cup dried apricots, cut in pieces
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice, at room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Soak apricots in water for 30 minutes; drain.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch by 4-inch loaf pan.
Cream sugar and butter. Add egg; mix well. Add water and orange juice; mix well, scraping bowl often. Sift together dry ingredients; add to sugar mixture and beat well.
Pour into loaf pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple juice
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup finely chopped apple
1/3 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
Sift together dry ingredients. Add juice, egg whites, and apple; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in cranberries and raisins just until combined.
Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake 14 to 16 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool five minutes before removing from pans.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup white corn syrup
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, bourbon, corn syrup, flour, and butter; mix well. Stir in chips and nuts. Pour into pie shell; bake 40 minutes.
This is a heavenly lemon spread. It’s delicious on English muffins, toast, or pancakes. Or blend it with an equal amount of whipped cream and serve as an elegant dessert. Makes about 1-3/4 cups.
3/4 c sugar
grated rind and juice (1/3 c) of 2 lemons
1/2 c butter
3 eggs, beaten
Put all ingredients in the top of a double boiler, over hot water. Stir until mixture is well blended and begins to thicken. This takes only a few minutes; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal, or into scrupulously cleaned jars for refrigeration or freezing.
6 Large egg Whites
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar*
2 cups ( 12oz bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Heat oven to 175 degrees. Line several sheets with parchment paper or wax paper, and set aside.
2. In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of superfine sugar over the beaten egg whites, and continue to whisk on a low speed.
3. Increase speed of mixer, and mix constantly, continue to add superfine sugar ONE TABLESPOON AT A TIME, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is firm enough to hold stiff peaks. It is important that all sugar be dissolved after each spoonful! Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Pipe or spoon small amounts of mixture onto your prepared baking sheets, spacing mounds about 1 inch apart. Bake meringues until completely dry to the touch, about 3 hours.
5. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a airtight container up to 3 days.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen depending on the size of spoonfuls you use.
You can dust meringues with confectioners sugar, or coco powder for color presentation.
I like to leave them just as they are.
* Sugar must be pure cane superfine instant dissolving sugar. Domino’s makes the one I use, it is sold in a 1lb box. If the wrong sugar is used the cookies will not dry out, and be more like marshmallows, and will stick to the paper, and not come out.
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 lb. of butter (not margarine—very important)
1/4 cup of white corn syrup (Karo)
1 bag of mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
(Have the cookie sheet, chocolate bits and nuts ready before you start cooking)
Boil all ingredients to 285ƒ, stirring constantly. Pour onto well greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with chocolate chips. When they begin to melt, brush with pastry brush, very gently. Sprinkle with finely chopped pecans. Let cool, then break into pieces.
For thirty years I have sung with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. I have weathered good times and bad with the chorus. I have sung concerts I loved; I have endured music which I found not to my liking. Despite personal feelings towards a variety of directors, it never occurred once to me to abandon the chorus over personality. Indeed, only a few weeks ago I was finally able to share my music with my family.
It is disturbing to me, and, to be honest, quite incomprehensible, that I have, of recent days, been feeling the need for separation. Perhaps it is a waning energy level of which I keenly became aware during the most recent concert experience. Maybe, I am “passed it” and that it is time to make room for younger singers. Or, is it just a case of losing interest? I don’t know. Another day may bring a new perspective. Today I’m just tired of it all.
The following was shared earlier today with Tim Seelig, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. The moment is too dear to keep so private.
This is going to get a little personal and a bit long; you have been warned.
I came out to my parents when I was 27. It was a difficult decision to make, but there was an attempt by an ex-partner to blackmail me into supporting him after the breakup by threatening to tell my parents the whole lurid story of our relationship. No one threatens me. So, one morning after work (I slaved along in the graveyard shift, working in hotels, in those days), I took a couple Valium, and drove the 65 miles from SF to Tracy. To make this long story a little shorter, let’s just say things didn’t go too well that January morning. But, the situation improved over time, even over my father’s insistence that, had he forced me to go deer hunitng, I wouldn’t have turned out queer. Yes, we do have redneck club in California – my father was Sergeant-at-arms!
My mother died just over 3 years later. But, before the terminal illness fully manifested itself, she asked me to promise never to tell the family that I was gay…not my brothers, not the aunts and uncles and the hoards of cousins. It was a promise she should have never asked me to make and one I should have refused. But I agreed. And even after she died, I kept that promise. I never did anything to directly inform the family about my sexuality. Mind you, I never did anything to hide it, either. I handled the situation by cutting myself off from my family. If who I was had to remain hidden from them, then I had to live my life away from them.
Two years after she died, I joined the chorus. My mother would have been happy that I was singing again, though I don’t know if she would have approved of the association; I will never know. Yet, I was sorry she couldn’t have lived to come to a concert. She had a glorious soprano voice. In another time and place, she could have been on stage; she was that good. So I think pride in her son may well have outweighed her disapproval of his lifestyle. Since I was still keeping that promise, I could never invite my brothers or the extended family to a performance. My father simply wasn’t interested. So, while friends and acquaintances and associates often attended an SFGMC concert with me on stage, my family was never in the audience.
Over time, I began reconnecting with my family, first with my youngest brother, and then with my oldest cousins. My cousin Don, the eldest of the 11 grandchildren and 20 years older than I, found me about 5 years ago. A simple computer search found me on the roster of SFGMC. He called the office and Tony managed to connect us. That Don showed no indication of disapproval or surprise, for that matter, encouraged me to be frank with him in our first phone conversation. The walls began to crumble. The wonder that is Facebook has helped me find other first cousins and 3 nephews and second and third cousins. Since my life is on open book on Facebook, the secret is no longer being kept.
Fast forward to the most recent holidays. Don’s son, Michael, who lives in Las Vegas, informed me that he was coming home to Redwood City for Christmas and extended an invitation for me to join him and the family for the day. It was the first holiday I have spent with my family since 1982. When the subject of SFGMC found its way into the conversation, I was told, in most uncertain terms, that I was to inform them about the next concert because they had every intention of being there.
In July I will celebrate my 30th anniversary singing in the chorus. In March, my family will be in the audience at Davies to hear me sing. I cannot fully express the joy I feel.
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