Category Archives: First Act

Chop, Chop: Chopped Salad!

April 25, 2005



Caryn digs deep into the fridge and pulls out several tupperware containers from the back. She examines the contents skeptically. Lauren enters and tosses some papers on the counter.


Here. I need you to fill these out so we can add you to the movie’s payroll.

Caryn grabs a few more items from the fridge. She closes the door with her foot.


Is production starting soon?


Well, yes. But he won’t be needed for a couple more weeks.

Caryn unloads her arms by a cutting board.


So I won’t be needed for a couple more weeks either?

Lauren licks her teeth under her lips as she eyes Caryn.


Right. Something like that.

Caryn empties the contents of the tupperware on the cutting board. She begins chopping a pile of vegetables with her chef’s knife.


You know, there’s not much to do on a movie set. You’ll probably get bored after the first week.

Caryn shrugs her shoulders as her knife settles into a steady rhythm.


I feel badly that he’s dragging you into this. Someone with your talents probably has much bigger aspirations than cooking from the kitchen of a trailer.


I’m sure I’ll be okay.

Caryn starts hacking away at a carrot. Lauren looks down the bridge of her nose at the bits of vegetables.


Suit yourself. But you better hurry up with that. He’s been asking for his lunch for half an hour.

The sound of the knife stops abruptly as Lauren walks out. Caryn pops a piece of carrot in her mouth and resumes chopping.


Always nice chatting with you.

Chopped Salad

Vary this salad by including or substituting any number of ingredients: corn, blanched green beans, sweet peas, grilled chicken, avocado, fresh basil, fresh dill, green onion, fresh spinach, iceberg lettuce, red or yellow peppers. It’s also nice with a seasoned vinaigrette.

2 medium zucchini, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup hearts of palm, finely chopped

1/2 cup garbanzo beans, finely chopped

1/2 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped

1/2 cup baby corn, finely chopped

4 cups baby greens, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients in large bowl with enough dressing to lightly coat vegetables.

Serves 2 large salads or 4 side salads.

Buttermilk Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 TB. sour cream

1-1/2 tsp. onion powder

1-1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. parsley flakes

1/4 cup buttermilk

Stir together mayonnaise, sour cream and spices until smooth. Stir in buttermilk until desired consistency is reached.

To the Point: Strawberry Scones!

April 2, 2005



Mr. R., Lauren, and Miss A. are meeting with a DIRECTOR, dressed casually in jeans and a baseball cap. There is no shortage of smarmy AGENTS in the circle as well.

Caryn sets down a dish of warm scones with the icing still dripping down the sides. Mr. R. immediately grabs one and returns to his slump in his chair. Miss A. wears a perpetual smile as she listens, but keeps a distrustful eye on Caryn.


Of course this would be a fabulous collaboration for everyone involved.


I’m glad you think so.


Okay, let’s get to the point. Let’s talk numbers.

Caryn finishes setting up some coffee cups and quietly sneaks out.


Caryn has barely begun to tend to the baking remnants when the door swings violently open and Mr. R. storms in with Lauren confidently on his heels.

MR. R.

I never said that I wanted to do this movie!


Don’t worry. We haven’t signed any contracts. We’re just talking.

MR. R.

It doesn’t matter! I don’t even like the script.

Caryn inconspicuously slips to the other side of the kitchen.


Look, it really isn’t the time to be discussing this. Do you want to blow the whole deal?

Mr. R. sighs and looks out the window.

MR. R.

I just wish I was allowed to make my own career decisions for once.

Lauren opens the door again.


We’ll talk about it later.

Mr. R. reluctantly follows her out, leaving Caryn alone to ponder her own career decisions.

Strawberry-Yogurt Scones

2 cups flour

3 TB. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

4 TB. butter, cold, cut into 1/2 in. cubes

3/4 cup chopped strawberries

3/4 cup plain yogurt


2 TB. half and half

confectioner’s sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Stir together dry ingredients. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in strawberries. Stir in enough yogurt to be able to form dough into a ball (up to 3/4 cup).

3. Turn dough onto floured surface and with floured hands, knead a few times. Press dough into a rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick. Fold rectangle into thirds, like a letter. Press dough into 9-inch round. Cut into 8 equal triangles.

4. Place scones into scone pan or on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove to rack to cool.

5. Whisk confectioner’s sugar into half and half, adding more sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost scones while warm.

Makes 8 scones.

Oops, Deviled Eggs!

March 30, 2005



Caryn comes in with a dozen plastic grocery bags cutting into her arms, only to find Miss A. picking at a bowl of grapes.


Hey! I’ve been waiting for you.

Caryn takes the refrigerated items out of the bags first.


Am I late?


No, I just wanted to ask you if you could make some hors d’oeuvres for me and my girlfriends this afternoon. They’re visiting from New York and we’re gonna hang by the pool.

Caryn takes in this ball of energy before her.


Sure. No problem.

Miss A. beams.


Thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

Caryn opens the fridge to find a giant bowl of badly decorated Easter eggs filling the top shelf.


We dyed eggs this weekend! Aren’t they cute?

She doesn’t wait for an answer as she heads out the door with the grapes. Caryn tries to maneuver her groceries around the ridiculously large bowl of eggs.


Miss A. chatters away in the warmth of the sun, barely covered by her tiny, string bikini. Her GIRLFRIENDS also wear bikinis of equal size, but by contrast, look a little cold. Caryn steps out onto the deck with trays of hors d’oeuvres and a pitcher of orange-cucumber water.


He really wants to take another movie right away. And we’re both up for this one comedy where we would play opposite each other.


Fabulous! You two would make such a fun couple.

Caryn rolls her eyes as she arranges a table behind the girls. Miss A. basks in the attention of her friends.


We do have a lot of fun together. Oh! Caryn, where are those Easter eggs we dyed? I want to show my girlfriends.

Caryn looks at the table in horror. Before her, a tray of fresh, deviled eggs stare back. Miss A. hops up from her chair.


Nevermind, I’m famished. I’ll show them later. Let’s eat!

Deviled Eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 TBS. snipped fresh chives

1 tsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp. lemon juice

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out egg yolks from 11 eggs into bowl. Scoop out remaining egg yolk and set aside. Chop four egg-white halves and add to bowl. Mash yolks and whites with fork.

2. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and stir until smooth. Pipe or spoon filling into egg-white halves.

3. Put remaining egg yolk in a fine, mesh strainer. Mash yolk with fork, holding strainer over the eggs to sprinkle as a garnish. Serve cold.

Makes 20 halves.

Ford-Era Hot Cross Buns!

March 27, 2005



Caryn lies on her bed, perusing the Spring issues of her food magazines. Punky is curled up on his pillow next to her, sleeping peacefully. He rolls over at the sound of the phone ringing. Caryn grabs for the phone.




What’re you doing?

She sinks back down. Just Mom.


I’m trying to decide what to make for my Easter dinner.


MOM, dressed in a hip sweatsuit and hardly looking like she could have a daughter Caryn’s age, perkily cleans the counter of her luxurious, newly-remodeled kitchen.


You don’t have to work? What’re you making?


Don’t know yet.

Mom flips through the neat stack of papers at her desk off to the side of the kitchen. She pulls out an old, yellowed clipping.


I’m emailing you this recipe for hot cross buns I found in my collection.


Where’s it from?


I don’t know. Some newspaper.

She flips it over.


Oh! There’s a picture of Ford on the back.


Mother, aren’t hot cross buns for Good Friday?


That’s what the article says! You must be older than this recipe!


Thanks, Mom. I don’t think I was even alive during the Ford Administration.


Yep, you were. I gotta go. Have to pick up my ham. Call your sister tomorrow!


Yeah, yeah.

Caryn clicks off the phone and rests her head next to Punky on the pillow.


When was Ford President?

Punky plants his back paw in the center of Caryn’s nose and pushes her off his pillow.

The flavor and texture of this dough are great. Not too sweet and easy to work with. Yes, it actually is from a random newspaper clipping with a picture of Ford on the back.

Hot Cross Buns

4-5 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 package dry yeast

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup seedless raisins

1 egg yolk

2 TBL. cold water

1. Mix thoroughly in a large bowl, 1 1/2 cups flour, the sugar, salt, cinnamon and un-dissolved yeast.

2. Combine milk and butter or margarine in saucepan. Heat until liquid is warm (fat does not need to melt). Add in dry ingredients gradually.

3. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixture, or by hand, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 1/2 cup of flour, or enough flour to make thick batter.

4. Beat at high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead in raisins.

6. Divide dough into 18 equal portions. Form each piece into a ball. Place balls into 2 well-greased 8-inch round cake pans.

7. Combine egg yolk and water. Brush buns with mixture. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Cut a cross, carefully, on the top of each bun with a sharp knife.

8. Bake in 375-degree oven, 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. Remove from pans to wire rack to cool. Frost while still warm with confectioners’ sugar frosting.

Yield: 18 buns

Confectioners’ Sugar Frosting

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBL. warm milk or fruit juice

Combine all ingredients and blend to spreading consistency, adding more liquid, if required.

A Late Snack: Bierocks!

March 23, 2005



Caryn takes a tray of small, pillow-shaped buns from the oven, setting them on the stove to cool. She grabs a jar of spicy, whole-grain mustard from the fridge and piles a few of the buns on a plate.

Sitting down at the little table in the corner of the huge kitchen, she breaks open a steaming bun, catching meat and cabbage as it tumbles out. She spreads mustard across the top of the bun, and is about to take a bite when she realizes that Mr. R. is watching her from the counter.


Oh! I didn’t see you.

He laughs good-naturedly and rubs a hand through his well-designed hair.

MR. R.

I snuck in. What’re you eating?

Caryn puts down the bun, still steaming in her hand.


Oh, they’re bierocks. I was going to freeze them, but…

MR. R.

Can I have one?

He gets a plate and sits down. He takes off his coat, revealing a shiny, silk shirt beneath. Way over-dressed for the little table.


I can make you something for dinner, if you want.

MR. R.

I just got back from dinner.

He copies Caryn by breaking a bierock apart and slathering it with mustard.


It was one of those Hollywood places. All scene, food was terrible.

He pops a bite in his mouth.


I figured you’d have something better here.

Caryn half-smiles and picks at her own bierock, hesitant to continue eating.


Is anyone else hungry?

MR. R.

(chuckling mischievously)

No. They’re quite happy where they are. I left them there.

He grabs another bierock from the plate and tears at it pensively. Caryn reluctantly steals a bite of her own.


I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m not really cut out for this business.

He leans back in his chair and studies a button on his shirt.


Maybe I just prefer to be at home, eating a snack in my own kitchen. You know what I mean?

Caryn pauses for a minute, a little surprised.


Yeah, I think I do.



2 1/4 tsps. dry yeast

1 cup warm milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

4+ cups bread flour


1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef, pork, or turkey (I used turkey)

1 TB. vegetable oil

1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a heavy -duty mixer, combine oil, salt and eggs; add yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of flour and beat for 1 minute. Beat in 1/2 cup of flour at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.

2. Switch to dough hook. Knead on low speed, adding remaining flour 1 TB. at a time, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

3. Place dough in a well-oiled large bowl and loosely cover. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

4. To make filling, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and onion and cook until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Add cabbage and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

5. Punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes.

6. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a letter-sized rectangle (roughly 8 by 11) and cut each rectangle into 6 squares. Spoon 1/4 cup filling into center of each square. Bring opposite corners together at the center, pinching corners and seams to seal. Place seam side down on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

8. Uncover and bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 12 bierocks.

Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe (January 2004), Bierocks are a great snack to freeze for quick sack lunches. I pack a couple for day-trip hikes and let them thaw in my backpack.

Sweet Sesame: Asian Vinaigrette!

March 14, 2005



Caryn and Flora are trimming and washing a bed of fresh, spring greens over the sink when the door swings open and MISS A., a stunningly beautiful actress in a white, flowing sundress, prances in.


Oh, fabulous! I’m famished.

Flora can’t help staring.


Um, can I help you?


He said I’d find you here. What are you making?


He’s here? He’s back from–

She is cut off by the door swinging open again. Mr. R enters, visibly tired from his travel, but smiling warmly at Miss A. He nods to Caryn without taking his eyes off of Miss A.

MR. R.

Caryn, I see you’ve met my houseguest.


She was just helping me find lunch.

Caryn puts down the greens and wipes her hands dry.


Would you like a salad?


Brilliant. Just some lettuce.


Just greens?


Perhaps a light dressing. That’s all.

Mr. R. gently puts his hand on Miss A.’s sleek, exposed back and leads her to the door.

MR. R.

She doesn’t eat much.

They are almost through the door as Miss A. calls back.


Thank you!

Her giggle is muffled when the door swings closed again. Flora can’t help giggling herself.


Do you know who that is?


Yes, Flora.

Caryn takes some bottles with Chinese writing out of the cabinet.


My daughter has seen all her movies.


I might have seen one on an airplane or something.

She drizzles a little from each bottle into a small bowl. Flora resumes cleaning the greens.


So pretty.

Caryn whisks the vinaigrette with a vengeance.


Too thin.

Asian Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons peanut or olive oil

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)

Whisk all ingredients together.

A small amount of sesame oil adds tremendous depth to this vinaigrette. It needs nothing more than an assortment of baby greens to accompany it.

The Pepper Chef!

March 7, 2005



The sink is overflowing with dirty dishes and bowls. Bright orange spots are spattered around the stove. The trash can is long overdue for a changing.

Caryn stands over a colorful bowl on the table, digital camera poised at her eye. There is a quick knock at the door, but it opens nearly at the same time and Matt waltzes in.


Smells like peppers in here!


Roasted red peppers.

Matt leans over the table to look at the bowl.


What’s that?


Dip. Didn’t know you were coming over.

Matt picks a pita chip off the counter and starts to munch on it.


Wasting some time before my date.

Caryn repositions the food and snaps another picture.


It’d kill you to show up on time?

Matt grabs another chip.


Who’s this for?


No one. Just an experiment.


Perfect. Then I’m your guinea pig.

He grabs the chip that sticks out of the bowl and scoops a generous portion of the silky dip before popping it in his mouth.


Good thing I’m done taking pictures.


Wow. Smoky.

He walks over to the fridge and grabs a half-full bottle of pomegranate juice.


And hot!


I know. I might have added more jalapenos than it called for.


I think it chapped my lips.

This flavorful dip was designed as an entry for the Paper Chef #4 using the following ingredients: eggplant, stale bread, chocolate and pomegranate. The use of three different kinds of peppers somehow brought those flavors together.

Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Dip

Chipotle Mole Garnish

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes

1 cup boiling water

2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 Tablespoons blanched almonds

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

1/2 of a 7-oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/2 cup of pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate

1. Rehydrate tomatoes in boiling water. Drain and reserve liquid.

2. Toast pepitas, almonds and sesame seeds in a dry skillet until lightly browned. Cool.

3. Grind seeds and almonds in food processor until fine. Add tomatoes, chipotles and pomegranate juice. Puree until smooth.

4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until soft. Add the pureed mixture and saute until thickened (about 15-20 minutes).

5. Melt the chocolate into the mixture. Thin sauce with reserved tomato liquid until desired consistency (I used 1/2 cup). Simmer for a minute to blend flavors.

Makes about two cups. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To use as a sauce for meats or vegetables, use only one or two of the chipotles and thin the finished sauce with chicken broth. Vary the chocolate to taste.

Pita Chips

5 loaves of stale pita

olive oil



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Brush the pita with olive oil and cut into halves and then thirds to form wedges.

3. Dust with cumin and paprika.

4. Bake on a cookie sheet until golden and crispy (about 20 minutes).

Aroma Therapy: Focaccia!

February 24, 2005



Laden with bags of groceries, Caryn stumbles across the room where she hoists the purchases onto the counter. Exhausted already, she rests against the refrigerator.


Caryn peeks her head through the door. The room is empty.



The house echoes with her voice. Convinced that there is no one around, she creeps into the room to explore.


Caryn is barely noticable in the expansive room of leather and dark, polished wood. She bumps a chair on her way through the room, but is careful to return it to its exact original position.


The books stretch from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Caryn takes a handsomely bound edition off the shelf and examines it. When she opens it, the binding cracks for the first time.

A thud sounds from the other end of the house. Caryn jumps and puts the book back.


Caryn is relieved to find FLORA, the housekeeper, putting the groceries away. She helps Flora unpack the bags.


Oh, hey Flora.

Flora smiles warmly at Caryn and speaks with a thick Mexican accent.


Hi. How are you?

Caryn takes a large bunch of rosemary from the bag and inhales it deeply. She runs her fingers through the needles.


Flora, what do you say we warm up this house with some fresh bread?

Flora smiles again. Caryn grabs a pound of flour from a bag, but it slips in her hands and the soft, white flour explodes all over the counter.

Caryn and Flora burst into giggles.

Rosemary-Onion Focaccia

(for bread machine)

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of the sugar over the warm water. Let stand at room temperature until foamy.

2. Add the flour to the pan of the bread machine and make a well in the center.

3. In the well, add 1/2 cup of the olive oil, remaining sugar, table salt, and water-yeast mixture.

4. Use the dough-only cycle of the bread machine to process the dough, adding the rosemary and onion at the mix-in warning (about 5 minutes into the kneading cycle).

5. Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the paper with olive oil. Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet. With oiled fingers, pat dough into a rectangle or oval about 1 inch thick.

6. With your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon, make deep indentations in the top of the dough. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 350.

8. Uncover dough and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Yield: 1 large focaccia


February 1, 2005



Caryn weaves the old Honda through the ever-present traffic of the city. It was a nice car in its day, but that day has long passed. She turns the radio up to drown out the noise of her brakes as she squawks to a halt at a red light.

The MAN in the polished Mercedes next to her scowls at the Honda, baffled that any car can make the exact noise of an ailing heifer. Caryn turns away to avoid eye contact when she spots a sign on her left that reads “La Brea Bakery.” She sits up in her seat.

The light changes, but Caryn whips her car between oncoming traffic and into the valet parking lot of the bakery. She hops out and dashes to the store, calling back to the valet ATTENDANTS.


I’ll only be a minute!

The attendants shake their heads in wonder, but before they can gripe, she returns and is squawking the car back into traffic.

She can’t wait. She opens the bag from the bakery to reveal a loaf of bread that looks like any country loaf. But when she tears off an end, soft, perfumed cloves of garlic appear from their hidden caverns inside.

Caryn nibbles on her bread as if it was her only ration for the week.


A pile of tomatoes drains on the counter while Caryn minces fresh garlic. A buzzer on the fridge goes off and she dashes to the oven to remove a cookie sheet of small bread slices. Olive oil has painted the surfaces of the toasted slices a tender green.

Punky paces the area around his food bowls, occasionally letting out a piercing MEOW to let Caryn (and the neighborhood) know that he is hungry.

Caryn puts the bread slices piled high with cheese and a tomato mixture in the oven. It is no time before she pulls the cookie sheet out again, the bruschetta now glistening with the tomatoes and the cheese lovingly melted over the sides.

She tosses some fresh, torn basil over the bruschetta and sits down to escape the headache of the city. As she sinks her teeth into the first, crusty slice, the phone rings, pulling her back to reality. She reaches for the phone and Punky seizes the opportunity to steal his own slice of bliss from Caryn’s plate…


3-4 medium tomatoes

1 fresh country loaf of bread (or other rustic loaf)

4-6 oz. whole-milk mozzarella**

2 garlic cloves, minced

6-10 basil leaves

olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Peel, core and chop the tomatoes. Lightly salt the chopped tomatoes and place in a colander. Set colander over a bowl to catch juice. Let sit for 30 minutes.

3. Slice loaf into 4 thick slices and then cut slices in half. Depending on the size of the loaf, slices should be a little larger than bite-size. Brush olive oil on both sides of the bread and place the slices on a cookie sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 5-10 minutes.

4. Cut mozzarella into slices to fit each bread slice, up to 1/4” thick.

5. Mix tomatoes and garlic together and drizzle with a little olive oil.

6. Top each toasted bread slice with mozzarella and a generous spoonful of the tomato mixture.

7. Bake until cheese melts and begins to brown, about 10-15 minutes. It’s okay to boost the oven temperature a bit to decrease cooking time—just make sure the bread doesn’t burn on the bottom.

8. Tear basil leaves over the tops of the bruschetta and serve

**Whole-milk mozzarella melts faster and more evenly than part-skim, which means it starts to get that brown, bubbly crust before the rest of the food becomes overcooked.