Saffron Risotto with Asparagus & Fava Beans, Ziplock Omelettes, Pasta with Watercress & Lemon Cream and Disturbing Pedicures


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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YUP!  I wrote a very funny novel!  I hope you will read it!


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OK.  First of all, let me say that I like risotto.  A lot.  But I am finding that, when I make it, it tastes pretty much the same no matter what I use as the highlight ingredients.  That can be disappointing.  Also – there is an art to cooking it just right & to not presenting some waterlogged, mushy rice mess.  The risotto I made last night disappointed me primarily because the saffron color & flavor both somehow got lost.  That was certainly not the case with my Saffron Cream Pasta with Cauliflower.


That pasta dish was exactly as delicious as it is stunning to see.  But my risotto – not so much.  I’m not saying it didn’t taste good.  It did.  But it has no big wow factor.  So – I am going to use this blog to post a few different items I’ve made that, while I recommend them, I didn’t feel they merited their own post.

But first – let me tell you about a recent experience I had at the nail salon.  This week, my friend Laura is in town from Boston.  She suggested that she & I (and her 12 year old daughter) all go for pedicures & maybe some lunch.  Sounded good to me so I picked them up & brought them to my local, strip mall nail salon.  When I go on my own, I just sit in the regular chairs & eschew the massage chairs because 1) they add $4 to the tab & 2) I think massage chairs are pretty lame.  But, Laura & her daughter were already planted in them & Laura insisted that I join them for the experience.  As I crawled into my chair, Laura said, “Hey!  This chair is pinching my butt!”  I made some lame joke about being desperate & lonely enough to welcome a little grab ass from an electronic chair & plopped myself down.  Now, I don’t know if there is a default setting on the chairs or if the staff sets them a certain way or if you just get it the way the last resident left it but my chair was on full assault mode.  The remote control for it was more complicated than trying to set a VCR to record a TV show & so, as I fumbled, I was victim to the existing settings.  The settings included words like “flap” & “knock” & “knead.”  Flap?  What the fuck is flapping?  I knew what knocking was because it was actively happening to me.  I felt like I was at Super King in the sorry position of standing in front of an especially impatient (and rude) woman with a mustache, black socks & Jesus boots prodding me from behind, angling to cut me in line at the cheese case.  I was in the middle of trying to express something or other to Laura when the chair commenced its “lower body” massage.  I froze mid-word, clamped my mouth shut & my eyes widened in surprise & horror.  Laura looked back at me & knew exactly what had just begun with my chair.  “Right?” she asked rhetorically, her eyes as wide as mine.  And she laughed.  The butt pinching she had mentioned was no butt pinching at all.  It was more like there was a little person under the chair wearing a boxing glove – who was using that boxing glove to massage our taints.  The glove rolled around, providing pressure from front to back & back to front again.  It was very disconcerting and, quite frankly, a shocking violation.  Who thinks they are going to get a vulva massage at a low end nail salon?  Not me.  Was this some sort of “happy ending” house of prostitution?  Did this require a bigger tip?  Ugh!  And if you think sleeping in a cheap motel on a bed with sheets of questionable sanitation is gross – just think of the places that boxing glove has been!

“OMG!  How do I turn it off?!”  I was panicking.

Laura was laughing and, sotto voce, asked, “What do you think…” and she subtly gestured over her shoulder where her 12-year-old daughter sat placidly in her chair.  Oh jeez!  Was that chair molesting her daughter, too?  These chairs had succeeded in freaking out a jaded 48-year-old & a mother of two.  What damage was that third one doing to the psyche of Laura’s innocent middle-schooler?  Methinks – in retrospect – that her chair must have been set differently because, if she was getting the full “lower body” treatment (vagina massage!  Let’s call a spade a spade here) – she gave no indication & I have a really hard time believing anybody could field the initial goosing & not have THIS reaction:

So – after much fumbling, I managed to get the pelvic exam part of the massage to stop.  But in my panic, I apparently upped the “knocking” part & couldn’t turn that off.  I tried to ask Laura but I was getting punched so hard, my speaking voice got all choppy – like I was Katherine Hepburn in the final grip of Parkinson’s.  “La-a-aur-a?  H-how do-o-oo you-ou t-t-u-uh-urn th-is-is o-o-offf?”  While I was speaking, I looked down at myself & noticed that my boobs & every other loose bit on my frame (and there are lots of bits looser than I would like) were being jostled around like a bowl of Jello.  I looked at Laura, a woman gifted in the breast department, and saw her body also looked like it was being wrestled by one of those old-fashioned fat loss jiggle machines.

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By the way – I am old enough to have belonged to a gym in Boston (Gloria Stevens) that actually HAD those things AND the stupid roller machines.


Jesus.  Had I known what this chair would get up to – I might have worn a corset or some other support device.   A full body Spanx.  Something.  A wet suit.

As Laura and I jiggled & giggled & poked randomly at the remotes to no avail – ah, yes!  Cue the creepy male proprietor.  Here he comes to position himself before the display of waggling female appendages.  He not only stood there taking it all in – he also engaged us in conversation & passed his phone between us – sharing his remarkable weight loss photos.  This effectively kept us from being able to focus on our remotes & end the shaking that would eventually take a harder toll on our boobs than gravity.  “Oh, yes!  I see!” we said, politely enthusiastic.

“Exercise & eating!  I eat a lot of cheese!” he declared.

Good for you, buddy.  Now take your “before & after” photos & your prominent moles with three-inch whiskers dangling from them & get outta here!  I need to adjust my bra straps!

Eventually, we were able to get the chairs to settle down & we got down to the business of the pedicures.  Here is a photo of Laura & me – exhibiting the post-rough-sex glow we had – courtesy of those perverted chairs with anger issues.

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Notice the Bat phone in the background?  Look at this thing.

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Maybe Fu Manchu there was more than just a thinned down, lusty boob man.  Maybe he was a superhero & this was his special superhero phone?  They also had this throwback-looking thing.

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Maybe that was his teleporter.  I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that I got glittery, red toenails meant to draw your eye from my increasingly problematic bunions.

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Are feet copacetic in a food blog?  Likely not – and for that – I apologize.

I also know that when we went to lunch – I opted not to take any chances on this place –

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– because I still felt violated by the massage chair & was in no shape to roll the dice on the “anal beer” these guys seem so proud of.  Even if it is served ice cold.

That really is an unfortunate breakdown of a perfectly decent word, no?

Alright – now that I’ve gotten that off my chest – I can share a few underwhelming recipes!  YAY!

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I grilled shrimp for this but you can lose them if you want to.

Saffron Risotto with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus & Fava Beans


Shrimp (optional)

2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

4 cups stock (I make 5 just in case the risotto needs overcooking)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1 large shallot (or small onion)


Saffron (3 TBS of the liquid or a generous pinch of saffron threads steeped in 3 TBS hot water)

1 (16 oz) can fava beans (or white beans of any kind)

4 cloves garlic – minced (or to taste)

olive oil


1/2 lemon

Basil or parsley as garnish (I happened to have red basil)


Put the shrimp (if using) in a Ziplock bag or a bowl & squeeze the 1/2 lemon over them.  Add a glug or two of olive oil & some S&P and maybe a minced garlic clove or two.  Blend well.  Set aside.

Drain the fava beans & puree in a food processor.  Set aside.

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Hold each asparagus spear by the far ends & bend until they snap.  They will naturally break at the point that the spear is too tough to eat.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a stock pot.  Add the asparagus & some garlic & saute about 3 minutes over medium heat or until the asparagus is vibrant & softens a bit.  Set aside but keep the pan for re-use.

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Grill or pan-fry the shrimp until just pink.  Set aside.

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In a clean pan – heat the stock to just simmering & keep it there.  Add the saffron to this stock.

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in the asparagus pan.  Add the shallot (or onion) and saute until soft – about 3 minutes.  Add garlic & the rice & saute for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat – stirring constantly – until the rice is translucent at the edges.

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Add the wine (if using) & cook for a minute or so.  Then, add the stock in 1/2 to 1 cup increments, stirring almost constantly and allowing the liquid to be mostly absorbed before adding more.  You might need more or less stock – depending on the softness you like – but do not add so much that the rice is mushy.   Be sure to add enough broth, though, so that the risotto is creamy.

Add the asparagus & the cheese & the pureed beans.  Serve with grilled shrimp on top & with some chopped herbs.

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OK!   Onto another recipe that I could not post because I hate all the photos I took of it.  That is really the only reason – as it is quite tasty.

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That is my Watercress & Lemon Cream Stacenate (stracnar) Pasta.  It is the same pasta I made for this dish:


That is Stracnar (Stracenate) Pasta with a Pan-Fried Cauliflower, Tomato & Clam Ragu using the labor-intensive but really pretty cavarola-boarded pasta.


I don’t expect anyone to hunt down a cavarola board & make this stuff – so – just use bowtie pasta or something.

Watercress & Lemon Cream Pasta


1/2 lb bow-tie pasta (or pappardelle or something)

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)

1 bunch watercress

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves – minced

juice & zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBS pepper

1 tomato – diced (optional – but it would add nice color)

Parsley or basil or reserved watercress as garnish


Wash the watercress & remove any large stems.  Chop it up.

Heat the olive oil in a pan & add the minced garlic.  Saute 1 minute & then add the cream cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, juice & zest of the lemon and the S&P.  Blend & heat through.

Cook the pasta.  Drain & toss with the lemon cream sauce, add the watercress & serve topped with chopped herbs & tomatoes (if using) and lots of ground pepper.

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And lastly – this dish – Ziplock Baggy Boiled Omelettes.

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I saw this posted on my friend Cheryl Patrick Van Allen’s Facebook page & tried it out immediately.   Basically – you take eggs & whatever else you want in your omelette & put it all in a resealable baggy.  Squeeze out the air, seal the bag & smoosh everything around until well-blended.

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Whether camping or just serving several folks that require different ingredients in their omelettes – this is an easy way to make a bunch of varied omelettes all at one go & in one pan of boiling water.  Just be sure to write everyone’s name on their bag.

Then – boil them for 13 minutes.  Be careful the plastic doesn’t melt on your pan – a problem that actually bothers me & is a main reason I didn’t post this as a stand-alone recipe.   Folks say the omelette slips out of the bag onto your plate – and it does – but mine slipped out & looked more like an eggy heart than an omelette.

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That isn’t very appetizing.  But – it is nothing a fork & herbs & some peppers cannot fix.

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The other reason I didn’t post this before is because of the controversy about boiling in the bags that are not meant for that task.  It seems that the plastic can leak chemicals etc into your food.  Eh – but that is true of every dish you ever zapped in the microwave in or on something plastic.  I hate microwaving anything because I believe it alters the food in such a way that your body cannot even identify it as food – but I have been known to succumb to the convenience occasionally.  Still – I try to put things (even things meant to be zapped in their packaging) onto paper or glass before the nuking.

So – there you have it – boiled baggy eggy weggies!  Try at your own risk!

You know what isn’t risky?  A bottle of smiley face wine!

Bon appetit!

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