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Every year about this time, the flu comes around and does its damage. Consequently, there’s a lot of sniffling, coughing, sweating, and pill-popping happening. This year we got the swine variety, and everyone and their mothers lost their minds, following shameless media propaganda. I almost got worried for a second myself, but thank god, Jason grabbed my shoulder just in time, span me around, shook me up with his manly might, and spoke to my senses.

“Woman, where’s your reason? Every year the flu takes down a few thousands of people. Those usually are the folks of older age, and with pre-existing illnesses. For those poor souls any kind of flu, some times even a cold could be deadly.”

Thus the man convinced the woman, and the sun shone again, and the birds chirped lightheartedly at the sight at dawn.

I’m not trying to dismiss the lethal potential of the flu. I’m not a doctor, so my opinion is rather vulnerable. However, I don’t think there’s a reason to panic. Several of my friends fell victim of the virus. They felt like shit for about a week, with fever of 103 degrees, and violent vomiting tormenting their bodies. Not fun. Still, doctors let them go home with no medication prescribed, as those were in short supplies and thus reserved for pregnant women, children and others with life-threatening symptoms. None of the people I know, that have gone through the piggy flu, had had any complications. They simply did what one does with a regular flu – let it wear itself out, while drinking lots of fluids, resting and watching Oprah.

My own weapon against the virus is my will power. At the slightest scratch in the back of my throat I simply say “Naha! It ain’t happening. I am HEALTHY and FLU-FREE”. (Say it fast five times in a row.) I block the concept of getting sick out of my consciousness. I’m not even kidding you, twenty-four hours later I barely remember I was coughing the day before. Works like magic every time. You should try it, too.

On most days I have an appetite of a small horse, which once again proves I’m a picture of health. I made a pot of BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO, for instance, and we destroyed it with Jason in two days over 3 meals. Part of the “problem” was Risotto itself – its symphony of flavors, the sweet juxtaposed against the savory, the heat, the comfort, the rainbow across the sky, the BUTTERflies…

Butternut Squash Risotto

Before I move on, I want to test if you’ve been paying attention. Does the post read a little funny today? Does my English “sound” Polish all of a sudden? Wonder why? I haven’t gone mad, and yes, I’ve been taking all my vitamins. I simply needed to let my editor (Jason) off the hook for a few days or so, as his work turned into a circus on wheels. Jason has been putting in 16-20 hr days. Yes, you’ve heard me – twenty hours just yesterday. He’s already doing more than an average person is capable of, so understandably I am on my own for now, and you just have to deal with my accent.

If you’re feeling a little under the weather these days, BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO is an ideal meal to quickly boost your energy levels. Chicken soup is so last season. What you need to know about Risotto is that the dish requires some loving, as you can’t really dump the rice and veggies into a pot and walk away. You need to tend to it, gently stir the rice around, sprinkle with spice, love, and fairy dust, and whisper sweet things into the pot’s ear. Know it will all come back to you in a bowl – the food made of love. What BETTER nourishment than that?

Let’s get the ingredients ready:

–       Butternut Squash

–       6 cups of chicken broth (1.5 carton)

–       4 oz diced pancetta

–       1 onion

–       6 cloves of garlic, minced

–       3 tbsp BUTTER

–       1.5 cups Arborio rice

–       0.5 cups of white wine (the kind you’d enjoy drinking)

–       big pinch of saffron

–       1 tbsp dry marjoram

–       1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese (grated)

–       1 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped

–       salt + black pepper to taste

–       1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat an oven to 400˚. Cut the squash in cubes. Spread them in one layer on a sheet pan, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and some dry herbs (whatever you’ve got – marjoram, Herbes de Provence, oregano…). Shove the pan into the oven for about 25 minutes or until soft.

Cutting up Squash

Heat the chicken broth in a pot and keep it on over a very low heat. Throw pancetta into a separate pot, let the fat render, and then add the BUTTER. When it melts, toss the onion into that pool of yummy fat. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper, add the marjoram, and mix them together. Let the onions sweat for a minute or two to release their sweetness and fuse in with the herbs. Your minced garlic is next in line – into the pot it goes. Stir once more.

Here comes the rice. Chuck it into the same pot with the onions and cracklings, incorporate with all the flavors, and cook for a moment letting the rice kernels toast. Now pour in the wine and let it grab all the bits of flavor off the bottom of your pot. Reduce the heat to low.

The fun part begins with the first 2 ladles of the heated chicken stock you’ll add to the rice. You need to stir it almost non-stop as the liquid gets absorbed. With your free hand, season the dish with salt and pepper as you go. Every few minutes you’ll add another 2 ladles of the broth, and continue to stir. Keep going until all stock is gone, and the risotto is cooked.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Before you turn off the heat completely, add the roasted squash, your grated cheese, and fresh dill. Now, kill the fire. Give it two or three more stirs until the cheese melts and binds the dish together for the rest of its days. Your BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO is ready to serve. And it should be… served immediately.

In the end, your throat is warmly coated, your belly is fed and comforted, and your right bicep is twice the size of your left gun. It’s a win-win every way you slice it. And really, what’s BETTER than BUTTER? Particularly when it’s sweet and savory, not BITTER.

I’ll go take my vitamins now.

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I didn’t go to the store today because I fell in love with Jason.

I had no money, nor my driver’s license for that matter, as he took them along with my car this morning. We switched “horses” today, and my wallet drove away along with Jason into the horizon. Why was it in the car in the first place, you ask? It’s all Jason’s fault.

I was never the girlie girl who bought jewelry, handbags, shoes for every possible outfit, and all the other elements in THE ACCESSORY CIRCUS. I had a backpack, or a back pocket to store the stuff I needed when out and about. Then, while still living in New York, I met a girl as girlie as they come, who through her brains, charisma, and heart, was and still IS the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Her name is Aveena and she’s a dear friend.

Aveena in Italy

It was under her influence that I finally went shopping for earrings, an extra pair of stilettos, sunny colored shirts (frocks would be pushing it), and a couple of purses. It took all Seven Dwarfs and two weeks at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to teach me how to carry myself in all that armor and look a tad less awkward than Ellen DeGeneres in her prom dress.

Flashforward a couple of years, I make myself at home in Baja enjoying the beaches and rollerblades, when this guy crosses my path at a Downtown art show and sweeps me off my feet with no warning. Meet Jason. We start hanging out on a daily basis, and I find myself carrying fewer things each time I’m with him… less make up, less clothes, less of a purse. I stick my driver’s license and a credit card in my back pocket to free my hands and alleviate distraction while with that boy. As the Friendship progresses and turns into a Flammable Romance, I no longer feel the urge to carry shit around. These days, I only leave the house with items that fit in one hand or in Jason’s back pocket.

So now you understand why I didn’t get the groceries today, because I fell in love with Jason. It’s annoying how disgustingly wonderful he is. He’s just the best there is, and I love him to pieces – from the top front to the back end.

Jason The Man

He’s also the reason I make an effort in the kitchen and come up with dinners like tonight: SEA BASS IN MUSTARD SAUCE WITH BUTTER-STEAMED FINGERLING POTATOES DUSTED WITH DILL. Consequently, YOU get those recipes! The Jason’s Fan Club suddenly no longer sounds like a joke. Feel free to send in your vote.

In the meantime, let’s get cooking. Get the following items handy:

–       1-1.5 lbs of fingerling potatoes, cleaned, skin on

–       2 fresh fillets of Sea Bass, washed and patted dry

–       1 tbsp of Dijon mustard

–       1 tbsp of whole grain mustard

–       2 tbsp of sour cream (organic, if possible)

–       1 shallot, finely chopped

–       1 tbsp of drained capers

–       salt + black pepper to taste

–       2 tbsp of butter

–       bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped

In a non-stick pot, melt the butter and throw in the potatoes, sprinkle with salt, cover with a lid, stir around the whole pot and set on a low heat. The starchy bulbs will cook themselves in their own steam. However, make sure to give the pot a shake every so often, without uncovering it, to prevent the guys from burning their rear ends. It will take 20-25 minutes to complete the task. You can test if the potatoes are ready to rock & roll by sticking a tip of a knife inside one of them. If the tip slides in smoothly, you’re good. Next, sprinkle everybody in the pot with a bunch of fresh chopped dill, another pinch or two of salt and pepper, close the lid again, shake the pot around, and voila – you’re ready to serve the Fingerlings.

However, while they’re still steaming up on the stove, heat the oven to 425˚. Lay your fillets comfortably in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and slather with the Mustard Sauce you made before.

Oops, have we not talked about that yet? Then grab a small bowl and dump you mustards and sour cream inside along with the shallot and capers, a dust of salt and paper, and mix them all up.

Your fish is ready to go into the oven to get warm and cozy – for 10 minutes. That’s it. Don’t put too much sauce on top of your fish, as you don’t want to overpower the delicate flavor of the Sea Bass.

It’s time to plate the dinner. If you think something’s missing, I bet it’s salt. Just a dash of salt brings the flavors out and the meal (any meal) starts making sense again.

Fingerling Potatoes

Speaking of salt, get rid of that nasty iodized salt that tastes like a high-school chemistry lab in a box, and replace it with kosher salt. It’s clean, healthy and as inexpensive as the other crap.

It took no more than half an hour and you just made yourself a Royal Meal … for no special occasion. Just celebrate because it’s Wednesday and begin the festivities with a masterpiece din-din your dining table has never seen before.

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