Monthly Archives: June 2017

I KEEP TELLING YOU…

Mah Jongg really is everywhere! My dear friend Jeri has been scouting NYC for me and sending photos of evidence that Mah Jongg has infiltrated every aspect of daily life! As she passed a lingerie store on Lexington Avenue and 64th Street, she came across this bag in their window…I did a little research myself and found out that the store is called Lingerie on Lex at 831 Lexington Avenue (between 63rd and 64th Street) in NYC. I called and spoke with the absolute loveliest lady, Melissa, and she told me all about this darling zippered pouch. It is mesh with raised “leatherette” letters and sells for $25. It is 7″ x 9″. Melissa and her sister grew up listening to their mother play Mah Jongg and became Mah Jongg players and collectors themselves. When Melissa saw this pouch she thought it would be great to hold MJ card, coins, etc. Melissa is such a doll and, if you live in NYC, I hope you will patronize her store. And there is a sale going on right now!

Melissa has two of these bags in stock if you are interested and she told me that she can reorder it if she sells out. If you are out of town or can’t get over there to buy this adorable bag, you can call her at (212) 755-3312.

Much thanks to Jeri and Melissa!

If you see any evidence of Mah Jongg in your neighborhoods, take a photo and send it to me and I will post it!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’ve received this message from a reader of this blog. I’d love to hear how your Mah Jongg group deals with this issue. My group doesn’t pay for wall games but I think many groups do. So, let me know your thoughts.

I have two groups that I play with and love them both for different reasons.  I have been playing with my original group for over 5 years, but the other for only a year (they have been playing together for over 5 years, almost 50 years each individually!). One of their table rules is putting up a quarter for a wall game.  However, we disagree on how this should work when playing with more than 4 people.  They say the person coming in pays the quarter because they are the one who has a chance to win it.  I say the person who played the wall game pays it because it is in lieu of the (minimal) quarter they would have paid had someone won.  I can see it both ways, but it still bothers me a bit each time.  It’s only a quarter and I am a newer player so I go along with it.  I am wondering how other groups deal with this issue.  I’m sure there are some great stories about this!  Thanks for listening/commenting.

DID YOU KNOW?

The wonderful Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Style Mah Jongg, offers a Q&A in her monthly newsletter. This month there were a number of very interesting questions. Here are a couple of them with more to follow in a day or two. I’d love to hear your comments!

Q. Someone who winters in Arizona said that the white dragon should be called “white” during play. She got this instruction from a person who runs tournaments in Arizona. Is this now correct for all tournaments?

A. We call the white dragon “Soap.”  The NMJL has called it “soap” for many decades.  It’s common in Canada to name it “white.” Either name is acceptable in most tournaments. However, if a tournament Host states they want it named “white,” then you should abide by the Host’s rules.

Q. I don’t want to build walls, and I don’t want to throw the dice to break the walls.  Too many additional things we have to do.  Why? 

A. We just love these kinds of questions.  How about like what Mom used to say, “Because I said so.”  In this case….’because the NMJL said so.’  It’s the rule. However, here is a wonderful response…on Facebook,  “This is a game of ceremony, rules and etiquette. Building the wall is part of the ceremony. I cannot imagine forgoing this in the traditional four person game.”  Moreover, breaking the wall arbitrarily by the throw of the dice is a method to prevent stacking East’s wall with Jokers; to prevent cheating.  This process is used throughout the Mah Jongg playing world.

Does your group build walls and throw the dice to know where to break the wall? I recently played with a woman whose group always breaks the wall at 8. They never throw the dice. I personally like the rituals and ceremonies of the game and would not want to give up any of them. Also, as Gladys pointed out, throwing the dice to determine where to break the wall is a definite method to prevent any cheating. Let me know your thoughts…

MAH JONGG CAN MAKE YOU RICH…AND NOT JUST IN MONEY!

I received an email today from my dear friend J. With the email came the photo below and an explanation. J has been playing Mah Jongg for the past few months with a very experienced and fun group of women who have a $30 pie and with the values on the card doubled up to the nearest quarter. While cleaning out her closet, and the purses inside, she came across her most recent winnings. WOW!!! Check out all of her winning coins and bills!And who says that Mah Jongg is a waste of time?!!!

But there is more to this story…just to show you that J is into the game not for the money (even though that is always an additional benefit) but for the friendship that we all enjoy when we play. She is now also in a group with a $4.00 pie. This week she won $2.00 and is as proud of those winnings as she is with all of the money in the photo because the people in this group are so special. Let me say it again…Mah Jongg people are the best!

Just remember…And the most important thing to remember:

OMG…

I am LOVING my Mah Jongg zipper pull  – from Gehazi Collectionson my straw bag. I need to get more to put them on all my bags…and luggage…and my MJ coin purse…and EVERYTHING! Too fabulous!!! 

MAH JONGG LUNCHEON RECIPES

As promised, here are the recipes from the Mah Jongg luncheon given in honor of Toby Salk’s visit to NYC and Gail K’s birthday. 

SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP  – New York Times recipe

Yield 2 – 3 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1 12-ounce bunch fresh spinach, finely chopped (or 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted, drained and finely chopped)

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or shredded

4 ounces sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt

¼ cup pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring until it’s softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add spinach to pot one handful at a time, letting each handful completely wilt before adding the next. Add crushed red pepper, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid from the spinach has evaporated (no need to drain), about 3 minutes. Add artichokes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, just to take the raw edge off the artichokes.

Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese and mozzarella. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir until all the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes. Stir in sour cream and pecorino, and season with more salt and pepper. You can certainly eat this dip straight from the pot (or transferred to a serving bowl), but running it under the broiler for a crispy top is also an excellent option. To do so, transfer dip to a small ovenproof skillet (6 to 8 inches). Place in oven and broil until the top is golden and the dip is bubbling, 5 to 8 minutes. Let sit a minute or two before serving.

ROSEMARY CASHEWS – Barefoot Contessa recipe – these are SO fabulous and SO easy to make!

1 pound roasted unsalted cashews

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes.In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and butter.Thoroughly toss the warm cashews with the spiced butter and serve warm.CHILAQUILES  – recipe courtesy of Brian Albert at the Old Chatham Country Store

4 chicken breasts shredded

Mild enchilada sauce

Monterey Jack cheese

Tortillas (use a top quality chip – preferably made to order)

Green chiles

Spray a 9×13″ baking dish with a nonstick spray.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

To build the Chilaquiles:  Start with a layer of enchilada sauce on bottom of pan. Add a layer of crushed tortillas and push them down into the sauce. Next, a layer of shredded chicken topped by a layer of cheese; again, push it down then put on one layer of green chilis. Repeat starting with the enchilada sauce, chips, chicken, and cheese  – continue layering for 4 layers and finish with a cheese layer.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Check to make sure cheese doesn’t burn. Cover with foil for last 15 minutes.GUACAMOLE – Barefoot Contessa 

Makes 3 cups

Keeping guacamole cold in the refrigerator keeps it green. Cover with plastic wrap flush with the guac.

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well.

Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

If not serving immediately, refrigerate it in a bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface to keep the air out.

***I don’t have any photos of the salad but it was so easy to make (thanks to Brian Albert from the Old Chatham Country Store). Are you ready?

Put a little salsa in bottom of bowl then add 1 can Delmonte corn (drained), then 2 diced avocados folded in, and quartered cherry tomatoes. Make a platter of shredded romaine and sprinkle the ingredients over the top. Serve Ranch Dressing on the side. Wow – this couldn’t have been easier. As for the Ranch Dressing, here is that recipe:

BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING – Barefoot Contessa recipe

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

11/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon good olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup good mayonnaise

1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

Place the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to develop.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE – Barefoot Contessa recipe

1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1 16-ounce can Hershey’s chocolate syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Candied violets or edible gold leaf, or chevrons for decoration (all optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 8-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cake will be tough.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the pan.

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze. Decorate by drawing chevrons on top using a pastry bag and tip or a plastic bag with a corner cut off to create lines; draw a knife through the lines. 

Do not refrigerate.