I Should Be Dancing
I have been dancing a lot lately, mainly “Gangnam Style,” which is a craze that has come and gone, yet somehow I can’t seem to shake it. Or perhaps it’s because I keep shaking it (whatever “it” is) that I can’t stop dancing.
As a child, I took dance lessons for about three minutes. As soon as my mother twigged that I wasn’t going to rehearse “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” ad infinitum, she pulled the plug on my dreams of kicking it with the Rockettes.
Years later, after my son was born, I decided to get into shape by belly dancing. I loved everything about it: the exuberant Middle Eastern music, the graceful shimmy-shimmy-shakes, the cymbals, the discreet-and-sweet tummy rolls, and the ethereal costumes all made of gauze. And while I never danced publicly, I was an exceptional student until I fell on my noggin trying to do a jelly-belly backbend.
After that, I moved on to acting in community theatre musicals, necessitating a serious return to tap lessons, since every audition required the kick-kick-ball-change number. While not particularly light on my feet, I clomped through the routines with a kind of goofy-grinned enthusiasm that made one of my instructors exclaim, “Nancy really sells a dance!” Which I think was a compliment.
The fact is, I love to dance. Dancing is pure joy, true bliss, and a little slice of nirvana in an otherwise-stressful world. As a teenager, I embraced the ’60s, which began with the Twist, moved on to the Mashed Potatoes, and settled, during a particularly dorky week, with The Freddy. When the disco ball dropped on the ’70s, I was first on the floor with the Hustle and the Bump.
Over the years dance crazes have come and gone. Who knew the Minuet was once just a silly teenage fad? In fact, the 7th to 17th centuries were all about dance fads — during this era, occasional dance hysteria erupted en masse, with thousands of peasants spilling into town squares to dance till they dropped. Historians now believe these bouts of mania were related to times of stress and hardship. Which may explain why the video for Psy’s quirky-jerky “Gangnam Style” has struck a nerve with 1.6 billion YouTube viewers. Because, let’s face it, who hasn’t been just a wee bit stressed these days?
Following are some fabulous recipes that we can all totally dance to!
Serves 4 to 6
Music: Dancing Queen by Abba
Like Ikea, only better. Because I work off so many calories with my dance routines, I use heavy whipping cream for the gravy. However, half-and-half or light cream can be substituted with equally good results. Ground veal is sometimes hard to find, but it lends a very tender bite to the meatballs and is worth using. Grind your own, or in a pinch, leave it out altogether and increase the portions of beef and pork.
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 small onion, peeled, grated and squeezed dry
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground veal
swedish meatball gravy
1 tbsp flour
1 cup heavy cream, half and half or light cream
Beef broth, if needed
Preheat oven to 300˚F.
In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sauté the grated onion until golden.
Meanwhile combine the bread crumbs and milk in a large bowl. Add sautéed onions, egg, and seasonings. Gently stir in beef, pork and veal. Form small meatballs, using about 2 tbsp of the meat mixture for each.
In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the meatballs a few at a time and sauté until browned on all sides and cooked through. Remove and place on a baking sheet in 300˚F oven. Repeat until all meatballs are done.
Make Swedish meatball gravy:
In a small bowl, mix the flour and cream. Add to the pan drippings and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. If too thick, thin with a bit of beef broth or water. Pour over meatballs. Leftovers freeze well for 1 month.
Serve with mashed potatoes and lingonberry or cranberry sauce.
A Burgundy or California Pinot Noir is a lovely accompaniment.
eggs benny with salmon
Music: The Salmon Dance by The Chemical Brothers
To poach the eggs, fill a skillet halfway with water. Add a splash of vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Place heat-safe ramekins in water. Water should come halfway up ramekins’ sides. Melt a dab of butter in each ramekin. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Lower heat to simmer, partially cover and poach until whites are set and yoke is at desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
4 toasted English muffin halves
4 slices smoked salmon
4 poached eggs
Easy Hollandaise Sauce (recipe follows)
Place one toasted muffin half on each plate. Add smoked salmon and top with poached egg. Serve with hollandaise sauce and skillet-fried potatoes.
mock hollandaise sauce
A true hollandaise is whisked in a double-boiler. This version is slightly easier and just as good. Be sure to use fresh, high-quality or pasteurized eggs. The leftover egg whites can be frozen up to six months.
3 egg yolks
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup hot melted butter
In a food processor, blend egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt. Process 1 minute. With machine running, add hot butter in a steady stream. Serve immediately.
Serve with Champagne and pomegranate juice.
easy cheesy cheese dip
Dance Move: It’s a dip, so learn to dip your partner as you Tango and nosh. Or if someone asks you if you brought the dip, point to the nearest dude and say, “Yes, I brought him!”
Delicious and slightly addictive, this cheese spread is my Northern answer to Southern Pimento Cheese. Once I made it, Ron requested it three more times in the same week. Really, enough is enough. This recipe isn’t an exact science. Add or subtract ingredients at will.
3–4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or any cheese to your liking)
2–3 tbsp minced red onion
2–3 tbsp minced celery
1–2 tbsp snipped chives
1 cup good-quality mayonnaise, more or less to taste
In a large bowl, mix ingredients. Serve with French bread or crudités. Serves 4–6 as an appetizer.
Delicious with Spanish Cava.
ragin’ cajun shrimp
Music: Song of the Shrimp by Elvis or, for real hipsters, Townes Van Zandt. Since this is a Cajun feast, Zydeco music is entirely appropriate, as is a conga line down your town’s main street.
Nothing blows the tops of my guests’ heads off better than Cajun cooking. It’s not that I’m a grandstander, but darn, when I’m in the driver’s seat at dinner, I try to impress. Serve this delicious Cajun dinner with plenty of rice and bread to sop up the super yummy juices.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 ribs celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup minced parsley
3 scallions, sliced
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt butter with oil. Add onion, green and red pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté until softened.
Stir in flour, paprika, celery salt, chili powder, thyme, basil and cayenne pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Add shrimp. Cook 1 minute.
Deglaze pan with sherry. Simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce.
Bring to a boil; cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Garnish with parsley and scallions.
I like Gewürtztraminer with Cajun food, which opens a whole other door to great music possibilities. Yes, I’m talking Oom-pah-pah polka!
ravioli and kale soup
Music: Ravioli? Frankay! Try Nancy With the Laughing Face by Frank Sinatra. It’s one of my favourite songs. No reason.
I’ve gotten into kale lately, which isn’t as abhorrent as I thought it would be. It has a sort of broccoli-meets-Brussels-sprout vibe, if you can stand it. Substitute spinach if you prefer a milder flavour.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
8 cups chicken broth
1 package fresh small cheese-filled ravioli
4 cups fresh kale or spinach, cleaned and chopped
Salt, pepper, grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add broth. Increase heat to high. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are cooked through. Bring back to a boil. Add ravioli.
Reduce heat and simmer until ravioli rise to the surface. Add kale or spinach. Cook until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese to taste.
Cheese ravioli is always paired well with a Pinot Grigio from Italy.