Category Archives: Second 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.

Exchange Over Eggs!

April 14, 2005



Mr. R. reclines with his coffee and newspaper. Lauren is occupied with a very large stack of papers. A yawning Miss A. comes in just as Caryn is serving individual ramekins of creamy eggs to each place setting. She plops her actress body in a chair and helps herself to the fresh fruit salad in the center of the table.

Caryn turns to leave just as the air is broken with the bass of Mr. R.’s voice.

MR. R.


Caryn stops. Mr. R. continues without looking up from the paper.


Would you be interested in traveling with us on this upcoming movie?

Lauren and Miss A. simultaneously inhale. Caryn casually shrugs her shoulders.



MR. R.

Good. Lauren will hide you in the budget as my assistant.

Lauren whips her head toward Mr. R., her jaw hanging loosely on its hinge. Mr. R. turns the page of his paper.

Caryn spins around on her heels and exits, but not before shooting an ever-so-slight smirk in the direction of the ladies.

Creamy Baked Eggs

4 eggs

2 TB. butter

1 large leek (or 2 small), sliced thinly

1 TB. fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 cup + 4 tsp. heavy cream

salt and cracked pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Lightly butter 4 small ramekins (about 4 oz. each) with some of the melted butter from the skillet.

3. Add the leeks and rosemary to the skillet and cook until leeks are soft, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup of cream and simmer until the cream is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Divide the leek mixture into the four ramekins. Carefully break an egg in each ramekin. Drizzle 1 tsp. of cream over each egg to cover. Lightly season.

5. Place ramekins in a hot water bath and bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on desired firmness of yolk. Be careful not to overcook; when whites are just set, yolks will be soft. Remove ramekins from bath and serve.

Serves 4.

Cause for Celebration: Roulades!

April 4, 2005



Caryn carefully cuts through a golden chicken breast rolled with basil and goat cheese peeking out the seam. She neatly plates each spiral slice atop a silky, light-brown cream sauce and steps back to examine the dish.


Mr. R., Lauren and Miss A. are assembled again around the long table dressed for an elegant dinner. They are joined by Miss A.’s friends. Caryn serves the plates as Lauren finishes pouring the wine.

Lauren holds up a glass.


Well, here’s to a fantastic new endeavor!

Miss A. enthusiastically lifts her glass.


To our best movie yet!

Caryn looks up from serving, unable to hide her surprise at the news, but no one seems to notice. Mr. R. lifts his glass to the others, forcing an almost believable smile.

MR. R.


The dinner guests sip the wine and take their forks to the roulades. Caryn refreshes water glasses.


I think it’s going to be a long shoot. Too bad you won’t be able to take your chef with you.

Mr. R. swirls some wine in his mouth, watching Caryn leave the room.

MR. R.

We’ll see.

This entry was designed for the Paper Chef #5 using the following ingredients: goat cheese, sherry vinegar, prosciutto and green garlic. This sauce is nicely tart and would work well with a variety of roasted meats. Inspirations: a cider cream sauce in The Gourmet Cookbook and Emeril‘s skillet-to-oven technique.

Chicken Roulades with Sherry-Vinegar Cream Sauce

4 chicken breasts, 4 oz. each

4 oz. prosciutto

4 oz. herbed goat cheese (try Cypress Grove!)

16-20 large basil leaves

salt and pepper

2 TB. vegetable oil

1 TB. butter


2 TB. butter

1 TB. green garlic, minced

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

1. For the sauce, melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add sherry vinegar, bring to a boil and boil until reduced by half, 5-7 minutes. Add chicken broth and boil until mixture is reduced by half, about 12-15 minutes. Add cream and boil until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Set aside to thicken.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Place chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to a 1/4″ thickness. Turn breast to smooth side down. Season top with salt and pepper. Cover breasts with a single layer of prosciutto. Crumble goat cheese evenly over prosciutto. Top with a single layer of basil leaves. Tightly roll up chicken breasts to pointed edge. Secure with toothpicks.

4. Heat oil and butter in large, ovenproof skillet. Add chicken and lightly brown on all sides, 3 minutes total. Place skillet in oven until cooked through, 15 minutes.

5. Remove chicken from oven and remove toothpicks. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice into 4 equal slices. Serve slices on top of sauce on individual plates.

Serves 4.

Springtime Afternoon: Risotto!

March 17, 2005



The massive sundeck stretches the full length of the house and opens out to the expansive view of the buzzing city. Just steps below the deck, a glorious pool shimmers in the California sun.

Mr. R. and Miss A. relax at a large, round table that is dressed in the requisite white linen and crystal. Lauren reads a script in a sunchair next to them.

Miss A. stretches her bare, pedicured feet into the sun.


Is it finally Spring?

MR. R.

I guess any day here feels like Spring when you’re from Manhattan.


I may never go back.

MR. R. smiles at the thought as Caryn enters with plates piled high with hot, green-speckled risotto.



Lauren comes over to the table as Caryn pours sparkling water into the glasses. Miss A. wastes no time before digging her fork into the steaming mound.


What’s in this?


Oh, it’s sort of a light risotto. Arugala, leeks, parmesan.


Mmmmm. Perfect dish for a beautiful day!

Lauren resumes reading her script without touching her lunch. Mr. R. eats in silence. Caryn takes the opportunity to sneak away.


You’re right. Your chef is really good.

Lauren looks up from her script to Mr. R. who continues to eat.


She’s alright. Not the best you’ve ever had.

Mr. R. dismisses Lauren’s comment with a laugh. The table falls silent as the trio drifts off into their thoughts of the afternoon.

Around the corner, Caryn sits on the back steps, disappointed with the previous conversation from the deck. She stretches out her home-pedicured feet into the sun and tries to disappear into her own plate of risotto.

Spring Green Risotto

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups chopped baby arugala

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring stock to a gentle simmer.

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in heavy-bottomed pan. Add leeks and garlic. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until rice is nearly translucent, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.

4. Slowly add 1 cup of the stock to the rice, stirring constantly.

5. When the stock has been nearly absorbed, add the arugala, chives and thyme.

6. Continue to add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring the rice constantly, until the rice is just tender and looks creamy, about 20-25 minutes.

7. Stir in the parmesan and salt and pepper. Serve at once.

3 lunch-sized portions, and a little leftover.

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).

Just a Sandwich!

February 26, 2005



In one corner of the massive kitchen, a small kitchen table stands with two chairs. It is an old wooden table that could be found in any normal-sized home, but looks distinctly out of place in this house.

Caryn sits at the table that is now covered with food magazines and the same weathered cookbooks previously seen on her own desk. She is intoxicated with her reading when she is startled by Mr. R. coming in through the back door.

She looks up, unable to transition from her dreamworld into reality so quickly. Mr. R. passes through the kitchen without speaking to her.

When the door closes, she exhales.

The door to the dining room swings open again and Mr. R pokes his head in.


I’m not in the mood for much dinner.

Maybe just a sandwich.

He leaves as quickly as he appeared. Caryn reluctantly starts cleaning up the table, disappointed.


Just a sandwich.

She stacks the coobooks and magazines together.


There’s no such thing as just a sandwich.

Chicken-Asiago Sandwich on Focaccia

6 oz. chicken breast

2 oz. Asiago cheese, sliced thinly

2 squares of focaccia (about 4″), halved

1/2 cup baby greens, such as arugala, spinach, or mixed

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil



1. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on one side (1-2 minutes). Turn chicken over and top with Asiago cheese. Cook until browned and cheese melts (another 1-2 minutes).

3. Toast focaccia halves in toaster. Brush olive oil on top halves.

4. Cut the chicken into two pieces and divide between the two bottom slices of focaccia. Top with the greens and remaining focaccia.

Serves 1 grumpy employer.

Breakfast for Dinner: French Toast!

February 20, 2005



A sprawling kitchen of marble and stone nearly swallows Caryn as she bends intently over the stove. She hardly seems to notice that this kitchen might better fit in a story-book palace. Her forehead is curled into an odd shape of worry over a plate of the same chicken we’ve seen before.

LAUREN, a petite woman with chestnut hair cut crisply at her chin, enters from one of the many rooms. The heels of her Manolo Blahniks click pristinely on the tiled floors.


He’s been waiting for his dinner for ten minutes.

Caryn garnishes the plate with a bright sprig of fresh parsley and whips it off the counter.


It’s right here!


Caryn’s hand trembles as she places the plate onto a setting at the end of a very long mahogany table. She waits patiently by the chair, swallowed again by the expansive view of Los Angeles at her back.

MR. R, every bit of his brooding and handsome screen persona, strolls in, dressed comfortably in standard Hollywood black. He stops abruptly before reaching the table.


What’s that?


Um, well, it’s a variation of chicken piccata with nicoise olives and–


I don’t eat olives. Make something else.

She stares at the plate, unable to move.


What are you waiting for? I’m starving!

She immediately snaps the plate back to the kitchen again.


Lauren is reviewing some papers at a counter when Caryn tosses the plate into the sink with a loud clang. Lauren looks up with a smirk and begins to gather her things.


There’s some leftover bread in the cabinet. Maybe you should start with something easy…like a sandwich.

She laughs to herself and clicks out the door again. Caryn opens the cabinet to find the remnants of a hearty country loaf of bread. She gently squeezes it and then shrugs her shoulders.


Mr. R lounges at the table, absorbed in a dense book when Caryn enters again with a fresh plate and a small pitcher, still steaming. She places the plate in front of him, even more tentative than before, and waits.

Mr. R leisurely puts his book down and examines his dinner.


I know it’s usually for breakfast, but–

He looks at her for the first time.


Do you plan to ramble on while I eat?

She backs up immediately to the kitchen.




Caryn finishes cleaning the marble counters, shaking her head and mumbling to herself. She lovingly removes her cast-iron skillet from the hot water in the sink and dries it with a towel.


Guess I’ll take you home again.

She stops and looks toward the door that leads to the dining room.


Caryn quietly peaks her head through the door to survey the damage of her first, and probably last, day.

Mr. R’s seat is empty and the plate is wiped clean.

Country French Toast

4 thick slices of a rustic, country loaf of bread

3 eggs

3 Tablespoons milk

3 teaspoons sugar


Butter for cooking

Confectioners sugar (for decoration)

1. Whisk the eggs, milk, and sugar in a bowl large enough to dip the bread slices. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon.

2. Melt butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Dip one slice of bread in the egg mixture and coat evenly. Place in hot skillet.

4. Sprinkle the egg mixture with cinnamon again and repeat #3 with another slice of bread until skillet is full.

5. Flip each piece when nicely browned on the bottom (about 2 minutes).

6. When all slices are browned and cooked through, transfer to a plate and sift confectioners sugar lightly over the top.

7. Serve with butter and hot maple syrup.

Serves 2.


-Use a hearty loaf of bread with a thick crust. Slightly stale bread works nicely as it absorbs the batter.

-A cast iron skillet will ensure a nicely browned toast that doesn’t stick to the pan.

-Flip each slice only once to avoid toughness.

Chicken Piccata!

February 9, 2005



WINNIE, bubbling with Vietnamese enthusiasm, and her boyfriend, VIC, a burly softy, lounge on the floor around a coffee table that once was covered with a delicious spread. Caryn removes the plate that holds the remnants of tender chicken breasts, still dripping with golden sauce.


What are you gonna make him first?

She stops and looks at Vic. Winnie looks too.


Honey, she’s serving what you just ate!


Chicken piccata? You’re going to make chicken piccata on your first day?


What’s wrong with chicken piccata?

Vic squirms.


Nothing, except, probably not the best thing to serve to one of Hollywood’s hottest actors!

Caryn sits back down and leans forward towards Vic.


Look, I’m not even remotely qualified for this job. And–


They don’t know that. I told them you have lots of experience. No one asked any questions.


Don’t worry. They’ll figure it out on the first day that I’ve never even worked in a restaurant, let alone been someone’s personal chef.

Winnie laughs and starts clearing the rest of the dishes from the table.


I think you’re gonna be great!


I think it’s gonna be a disaster.

She fiddles with her fork.


This is the last time I ask you to help me get a job.

Vic grins at her, a big toothy one.


Where’s the chocolate cake?

Oh, Baby: Baby Artichokes!

February 3, 2005



Waves of a dark ocean crash onto the rocks of a deserted beach, protected by the sandy hills lumbering high overhead. At the top of those hills, fields of green crops stretch out to meet the early morning sun.

The crops, though, are not alone. Eager CROP WORKERS are lingering between the aisles, ready to get to work. One FARMER walks with his BROTHER.


February’s a little early.

The two men stop to examine the crop. The farmer bends down and gently cups the pointed leaves of a fresh, round artichoke. He slowly pulls it aside to reveal smaller, seemingly fragile baby artichokes hiding from the light beneath their mother.

He looks up at his brother, a broad smile creeping across his face.


Yeah, okay.

A sharp, machete-like knife hacks at the base of the baby chokes and they fall softly to the ground.


A sharp kitchen knife slices right through the heart of a baby artichoke, the halves instantly starting to brown.


Caryn sings along to the pop song blaring from the stereo as she methodically cleans the artichokes, dowsing them with lemon juice every few seconds. Water simmers in a pot on the stove. Soft butter waits in a small saute pan.

The unusually warm breezes blow through the screen door. It is February in other parts of the country, but not here.

A stem rolls off the counter and Punky chases it under a desk full of cookbooks and papers scattered about. She is planning something.

But for now, Caryn is content with the workings of her baby artichokes. The petite greens positively sparkle…

Baby Artichokes Sauteed in Lemon Butter

2 lbs. baby artichokes (12-15 artichokes)

2 large lemons

2 tablespoons butter



1. Juice half of a lemon into a bowl of cold water. Cut the other half into wedges for the cleaning of the artichokes.

2. Clean the artichokes by peeling off the leaves until the yellow, tender leaves are revealed. Cut a 1/2″ off the tops (the green part) and cut off the stem to 1/2″. Peel the remains of the leaves off the stem with a knife. Slice the artichokes in half and rub them with lemon to keep from browning. If necessary, use the pointed tip of a vegetable peeler to scoop out the fuzzy centers. Drop the halves into the bowl of water.

3. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil.

4. Drain the artichokes and drop in boiling water. Boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

5. Melt butter in small saute pan. Add drained artichokes and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3-5 minutes.

6. Squeeze juice of remaining lemon half (or whole) over the artichokes and saute for 1 minute more. Serve with lemon wedges.

(Serves 2)