Cold Shrimp al a Archipelago

Over the holiday, I made this little antipasto spread for a porch party we had. I had most of the usual suspects on the menu along with a carafe of Margarita mix and a bottle of Orvietto chilling in the ice bucket.

However, instead of serving sliced pepperoni and soppressatta, I went with something different. Looking at the jumble of ingredients in the refrigerator gave me inspiration, and Cold Shrimp Archipellego was in the making.

First, I poached the shrimp in my version of Court Bullion –

1.5 quarts of water

8 whole black peppercorns

2 stalks of celery chopped large

4 large green onions, chopped

3 bay leaves

5 parsley stems

3 slices of lemon

Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the ingredients for the actual poaching.

When you poach the shrimp, a high simmer or very low boil is enough heat. Have an ice water bath ready to cool them off in once they are cooked through.

The ‘relish’ for the shrimp is a super simple combination of light, fresh summer flavors. The flavor profile is similar to the Court Bullion, just bolder.

The mix of tomato and cucumber is one-third to two-thirds, or one large-ish cucumber to two medium size round slicing tomatoes.

Peel the cucumber and slice the long way. Remove the seeds with a small spoon. Cut in cubes 1/2″ x 1/2″.

Dice the tomato the same size. Remove any seeds that are easy to do so.

Mix in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon capers and about a 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill.

Season to taste and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour before serving with the chilled shrimp.

Balancing the flavors here is the key. Not too much of one flavor! Balance keeps the brain engaged and coming back for more because it has a lot to figure out as opposed to one flavor alone.

I will leave the plate arrangement up to you.

Bon appetite and God bless!

Stamp of the Week

This week we feature the Graf Zepplin Issue of 1930. The three stamps of this issue were printed by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving using a flat plate printing method. The United States Post Office produced a set of three airmail postage stamps that commemorated the Graf Zeppelin, the first European-Pan-American round-trip flight in May of 1930. All three stamps were first issued in Washington D.C. on April 19, 1930, one month before the historic transatlantic first flight was made. The stamps were also placed on sale at other selected post offices on April 21, 1930.

The sixty-five cent denomination applied to a postcard making the transatlantic trip. The one dollar and thirty cent denomination applied to a letter making that same trip and the two dollar and sixty cent denomination was for a letter to make a round-trip on the zeppelin.

A total of 1,000,000 of each stamp denomination was printed, but only 227,260 stamps in all were actually sold, or 7% of the total amount printed. The Zeppelin stamps were withdrawn from sale on June 30, 1930, and the remaining stocks were destroyed by the Post Office. (Why the Post Master General sold these for an unusually short time, and destroyed the unsold stamps, I have found no answer to.)

This short window of opportunity to purchase and selected locations had made this a valuable issue. Also, the $4.55 price tag to purchase all three was not affordable to most collectors in the depths of the Great Depression.

These factors, combined with the destruction of the unsold stamps, had outraged most stamp collectors. An avalanche of complaint letters to the United States Postal Service ensued.

This issue today is considered the rarest of all U.S. Airmail stamps.

Happy Collecting!

Many thanks to Wikipedia, Mystic Stamps and the Scott Catalog for some of the information used in this post.

Two Blocks From Containment

The containment zone outside of Aunt Florence’s window.

My Aunt Florence lives two blocks from the containment zone of New Rochelle, NY.

That was one of the first cities in America to be on total lock down due to COVID-19.

From time to time, I call her to check in on her and the situation there.

She told me early on that the governor called in the National Guard to ‘help’ with the situation. Being naturally leery of authority figures, I asked her what she had experienced with soldiers walking around the neighborhood.

In her splendid Yonkers, New York, accent, which I miss hearing, she said the following.

“Not much really. They stopped by our building to deliver food. Don’t get me wrong, Gregory, that was a very nice gesture, but your uncle and I don’t eat that kind of food. Everything was in a can or a box. I use all fresh ingredients. I make my own tomato sauce, soups or lasagna, everything from fresh. There was nothing for us to use!”

Aunt Florence is a fabulous Italian cook. She learned from her mother, who was also a fabulous cook and baker. ( I have bragged on my grandmother’s kitchen prowess in previous posts.)

The next time I called, I asked about the Guard again. Had they put down any riots, forced business to close, or were they just delivering food?

“Oh no, it’s very quiet in New Rochelle. All the stores are still closed, and everyone is off the street. People are concerned about getting sick. The National Guard is not telling anyone what to do. They don’t have to.”

Are they still delivering food?

“Yes, the same stuff,” she said disappointingly.

Then the tone of her voice switched to one of excitement.”Well, yesterday the bag they brought had a box of pasta and a can of kidney beans. So I made pasta e fagioli for your uncle and I.”

She finished her statement with a laugh.

Aunt Florence’s house in immaculate. You could not find a thread of dust on anything, even if you used a magnifying glass to search with. When you look in the refrigerator it is like looking at a display in a top notch museums – perfectly arranged, spotless, well lit. Her mom’s house was the same way. As a matter of fact, her two sisters and her brother, my dad, have houses equally as tidy. Considering the situation, these houses could even be cleaner, if that is possible.

She also has a practical nature and is not shy about sharing that – not rude, just not shy.

When she told me she needed a taxi to take her to the doctor, I asked how that worked out.

Her voice got a little serious.

“I asked them if they would disinfect the car before they came by. I’m sorry, Gregory, I’m too old to care what they think about that. Besides, you never know who was in that cab before me.”

She did not laugh this time, I did. But she had a point.

Maybe the next time I call she won’t have to be concerned about that. Maybe the National Guard will be gone and the streets and shops will be full of people again.

Stamp of the Week Addendum #4 – Help!

Writing these Stamp of the Week posts has motivated me to increase my philatelic knowledge. But until I have the deep reservoir needed to be considered a wise old man of stamps, I have to relay on the expertise of others.

If you have a minute can you help me out? Here is my situation.

As you can see, some of Jefferson’s image appears on the back side of the stamp.

What caused this to happen? Could this be considered a freak or an oddity?

I have searched for other examples of this but have found none.

If you have any knowledge on this topic please email me or post a comment.

As always, Happy Collecting !

First Mass back at St. Mark Parish

The procession to the alter.

Our first mass at St. Mark Parish since March 8th.

Monsignor Brownsey held it in the parking lot and we participated from our cars. We walked up to the white tent in the background for communion. That was done several cars at a time as we observed the social distancing rules given before we started.

Of course I was disappointed we could not celebrate in our hundred year old church. I love the resonant sound of that big pipe organ, the small groups of musicians and the wonderful choir. I also miss visiting with my St. Mark’s family after mass. Even just sitting in the church, which is a shrine to Fra Angelico, Patron of the Arts, can be a moving experience for me.

But I am grateful I had the opportunity to receiving the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

That is what matters most on Sunday.

The Radio On The Top Of The Refrigerator

I found a photo of the same radio!
Thanks, Robot Man.

I started listening to the radio before I was in grade school.

My mom had a small plastic AM radio clock that she put on top of our refrigerator.

When she was on the phone in her bedroom, I would push a chair against the fridge, turn it on, and search through the stations.

I settled on WABC, the top forty station broadcasting out of New York City. It was our hometown station because the city started just one block from my house.    

After a few weeks of this, my mom got tired of turning the dial back on her station, WNEW and The Make-Believe Ballroom. She bought a new radio and gave the GE clock radio to me.

The new radio did not have to go up on the refrigerator; I had my own.

I put the radio on the windowsill of my bedroom. At night I would listen to music while I looked out at the windows of the other apartment houses and wonder what the tenets were doing. I watched cars go by in the street and wondered where they were off to in the dark of the city. I watched the older kids running around in the street and wondered what they were up to.   

But my attention was focused when I heard “My Girl” for the first time. It was more than sunshine on a cloudy day. It was like finding something I never realized I couldn’t live without. Every time I heard that song it was the same first time magic.

Don’t you love those suits?

After that, I was constantly dragging my mom to the store to buy 45s.

A few years later, I heard “Round About” by Yes. It was the bass line that blew me away, but the whole song had sincerity, energy and great playing. Strangely enough, it was not Motown. Shortly after that, “Reelin’ In the Years” by Steely Dan appeared out of nowhere. It was that guitarwork that blew me away this time. I never heard anything like that on top forty either.

One evening when I should have been in bed, I heard a DJ named Gene Shepard. He did not play any music; he told stories, oddball stories. They were really cool because I felt like he was telling them just to me.

Late into the night, I could not stop listening to that voice coming out of the radio.

Shepard in full story-telling mode, somewhere in the 1960s.

Then my friend’s older brother told me about FM radio.

Stations were playing entire album sides on FM radio.

The hip crowd was listening to cool jazz, and free-form jazz on FM radio.

University professors from Fordham and NYU with elbow patches on their tweed sport coats were listening to entire symphonies on FM radio.  

You could listen to news from around the world on FM radio.

After that, I was constantly dragging my mom to the store to buy albums that I could play on my dad’s KLH wood-trimmed turntable.

The design was a lot more sophisticated then I remember.

When we moved out of the city into the country, I scraped enough money together to buy my own FM radio.

I could not find Gene Shepard in that universe on the dial, but I found Vin Scelsa on WNEW. He played extended versions and live versions of those new rock songs I was listening to. He told oddball stories too.  

Thanks to the New Radio Archives.

My radio world was changed forever.

I was changed forever.

Those two and half minute miracles I was buying from the record store were just distant memories as I plowed headlong into the King Biscuit Flour Hour, The Hearts of Space, and New Sounds on WNYC. At about at the end of my radio listening career the Schickele Mix was a favorite.

Those days may be long gone, but the memories they constructed in that universe in my head will always be there.

I can still recall the radio blaring out the segway of Scelsa’s “The Heroes of Rock and Roll” into Springsteen’s “Born To Run” as I drive home from work in my light blue VW Beetle.

Yes, that was an epic, sonic journey from the top of the refrigerator to Schickele Mix. It is a journey I cherish to this moment.

Stamp Of The Week

This week we feature the Traditional Christmas: Peace on Earth Christmas issue from 1974. It was designed by Don Hedin and Robert Geissman and printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The die cut printing method was used.

This was the first stamp the U.S. Postal service issued that had a self adhesive backing. Self adhesive stamps would not supplant gummed stamps until the mid 1990’s.

Since it is the first of it’s kind, a break with one hundred and ninety seven years of U. S. Postal tradition, directions on how to use the stamps were printed on the right margin of the pane above the plate block numbers.

The plate block numbers and the ‘reminders’ on how to be a good postal office user, are little through threads that keep this new design with in postal tradition.

This holiday stamp brings up an interesting situation.

Over time , the adhesive in this issue has caused the background color to fade away. As of 2020, not all the stamps have been effected. It is odd that the 2017 Scott’s catalog does not refer to the effected stamps as an error. No separate price is given. As far as I can tell, sellers are following the lead of the Scott’s catalog.

(I would consult the 2019 catalog but the library on the archipelago is still closed. If one could participate in social distancing it would be at our libraries.)

Since the choice of the problematic adhesive, or ink, was that of the designer, would it not be an error for the effected stamps?

Any comments on this are welcome.

Happy collecting !

The Last of Cold Weather Cooking

The temperature on the Midwest Archipelago is finally warming up. That means the days of cooking in the oven are growing short.

All the apple, pumpkin, and key lime pies, the blueberry buckles and apricot scones will all be saved for autumn and the holidays.

Soon the marinated chicken and swordfish; the big, juicy cuts of steaks; the vegetables, mushrooms and the baby heads of greens will be on the Weber.

Bruschetta; roasted red pepper salad on grilled crusty bread; cool piles of seafood salad tossed in olive oil, parsley and lemon; clams on the half shell; oysters on the half shell; and a thousand little bits of summer flavors sprinkled on top will fill our dinner table on the porch between the beer on ice and the tall bottles of white wine.

The thought of it makes me want to go back into the restaurant business so that I can cook all day long and watch happy people eat and talk.

But before this is the order of the day. I wanted stuffed mushrooms one more time.

My mushroom stuffing is a simple balance of three flavors:

  • mushroom stems, finely minced
  • good bread crumbs
  • good olive oil

DON’T use HUGE mushrooms; they take too long to cook.

Always mince the stems of the mushrooms with your chef knife. (The pile on the right.) The blade of the food processor spins way too fast to keep the integrity of the stems – unless you know something I don’t about using one.

Each large-ish mushroom uses about 1.5 – 2 tablespoons of stuffing.

Add the olive oil to the bread crumbs and minced stems a little at a time. Mix it with two forks held together, side by side. I have tried mixing this with a dozen different implements but my patent pending, two fork method is the best I have found.

The mix should have about the consistency of wet sand and look like this. Just enough oil to make it come together but still be somewhat fluffy. Don’t forget to season it.

I use a tablespoon to form the pile of filling in the cap of that forest floor delight. Make sure you lightly oil the pan you are baking them in, and leave enough room around them to get them out.

Bake uncovered in the oven at 375 – 385 F. Takes about twenty minutes. Check them often.

This is what you get when they are done.

The bread crumbs should be slightly browned and the mushrooms wrinkled around the sides.

What adult beverage is a natural pair with this?

  • An Orvieto, Sauve, or Vernaccia
  • Dry Creek Savignon Blanc is my wife’s favorite pairing
  • This will stand up to a well oaked Chardonnay too.
  • Beer-wise, anything from a lite Pilsner to a brown English ale or a dark Germany Bock beer.
  • Sparkling apple cider or a local hard cider would work too.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to say grace.