Hilltop Diary, August 25, 2022

For those who have not seen it on Facebook, I will start by sharing this lovely four-minute documentary/ promo video just done by the European Recording Orchestra about my new symphony, filmed while we were recording the symphony last May at the Bulgarian National Radio Studio 1 for my forthcoming Parma / Navona Recordings album (October 14 release still to come):


Calling the shots from the booth as producer was, for me, like driving a Lamborghini, not that I have ever driven one!  Great musicians and conductor, great room, fifty vintage (coveted in the U.S., if you can even get them for thousands of dollars) mostly Neumann U87 microphones, great booth and crack engineering team!

Various promotional plans and interviews regarding the album continue in the works, whilst I keep composing my ballet and making plans with the ballet producer. Planning is underway by friends also for an October record release party to be held at Fisk University, catered and with a jazz trio and bar. It will be combined with a reception for the Composer Laureate of Tennessee honor I received. Almost 200 invitations will go out around the first of September using a computer “E-vite” system to keep track of the RSVP’s.

I’m also happy to tell you that I have finally finished preparing all the lectures and tests for a new online “Basic Music Theory” class for high-schoolers through the same company as my other two courses, HomeSchool Connections, Inc. Students will soon be able to sign up and take this pre-recorded course online for credit, which will prepare them to take more advanced music theory courses in college, or just as an end in itself, to enhance their music playing or singing. And the computer grades the tests!

Now it’s time to take stock. Well, that is, to MAKE stock. When life gives you assorted poultry parts, make stock! Once or twice a year, I do a major batch of stock, a few gallons. It tastes so much better and seems more healing than the stuff in a can or box. Poultry carcasses, necks, wings, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, fresh thyme, sage, parsley, garlic, and whole peppercorns simmer all day, at least ten hours, on low. Then I discard all of the above and strain the elixir through cheesecloth over a wire strainer into gallon zip-lock bags and freeze them to use in tasty soups for the next several months.

Stock Ingredients

So that everything stays submerged, I weigh the top down with an inverted metal steamer basket on top (right photo). Notice in the photo that under the pot I also use a stainless steel heat diffuser plate ($23 on Amazon) with the flame on low (stock should be maintained at a low simmer, adding a little more water if needed later). This thick steel plate spreads the heat evenly and avoids hot spots and uneven cooking for slow cooking. It is especially great to avoid burning things like chili and spaghetti sauce.

On the surface of the pot, a kind of foam may accumulate, which is best skimmed off from time to time with a small screen strainer, like the one shown here. This time with chicken parts I only had to do that once, near the beginning, but have had to do it more often with turkey parts.

Once again, we shall be ready when cold season is upon us! My favorite soups to make with this stock are, of course, grandma’s healing chicken soup and my signature pumpkin soup containing pumpkin puree, my homemade mild Italian sausage, mushrooms, and fresh sage leaves. Garnish with grated parmesan and serve with a good bread. (However, I believe all food with pumpkin flavor, especially beverages and pancakes, should be banned until the outside high temperature is at least in the 70’s, preferably lower.) I also love to make a creamy green pea soup with ham and a splash of sherry. 

Finally, a few days ago when Crystal had to go straight from school to rehearsal, I was on my own for dinner. Though alone, I decided that at least I should cook a proper meal and eat well as if I were a civilized person. (I offer this advice to other of my fellow theater spouses who find themselves in this position.) So, I ventured into making pasta puttanesca with seared scallops, which was so easy and tasted fantastic to me, and it has a few ingredients of which Crystal is not a fan anyway (kalamata olives, capers, anchovies). If you are curious, HERE is a good demonstration of making it on YouTube. As school days begin for many, I wish you a great start of the year and not too much stress until next time.


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