NJ Alimony Reform; Nocera on Guns; Food and Family; Ask a Bioethicist

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

As New Jersey legislators weigh an end to permanent spousal support, Laura Morgan of Family Law Consulting explains the role of alimony in modern divorce -- and takes your calls on whether or not it's time for reform. Plus: Joe Nocera on Mayor Bloomberg's new ad campaign pushing for gun control; March's "Ask a Bioethicist" series concludes with a look at neuroscience and bad behavior; and a new book of essays explores the connection between food and family.

Widening the Gun Debate

Congress continues to debate gun legislation, and Mayor Bloomberg is launching a huge ad campaign around the issue. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wants to look beyond background checks and capacity limits. He's keeping track of daily gun violence and asks, "Why can't we childproof guns?"

Comments [15]

Do Halfway Houses Work?

A Pennsylvania report on recidivism shows that halfway houses do little to reduce the problem. Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, discusses their role and the impact of privately run houses. Also, Peter Cove, founder of America Works, discusses his organization's efforts to move ex-prisoners into the workforce.

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Ask a Bioethicist: Blame It On The Brain

Continuing a weekly series where we tackle thorny bioethical issues, Nita Farahany, Professor of Law and Philosophy and Professor of Genome Sciences & Policy at Duke University, discusses today's topic: Blame it on the brain.

If something about your brain causes you to behave badly, is it really your fault? Should we judge a person less harshly if they're neurologically predisposed to lie, cheat, steal, or become addicted? What do you think? Comment here.

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Alimony Reforms: NJ May End Permanent Payments

New Jersey legislators are considering reforms that would end permanent alimony. Laura W. Morgan, owner of Family Law Consulting in Charlottesville, Virginia and co-author (with Brett Turner) of the forthcoming Alimony Handbook to be published by the American Bar Association, explains how New Jersey and New York fit into a wave of family law changes, and takes your calls with questions or stories about alimony payments in your own life.


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Live from the Mall: Gay Marriage Demonstrations

As the Supreme Court hears arguments in the first of two same-sex marriage cases before it this week, Michael Lavers, staff writer for Washington Blade checks in from the Washington Mall where competing demonstrations are planned.

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Why Do Our Family Food Traditions Matter?

San Francisco-based Caroline Grant and Lisa Catherine Harper, editors of The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat, collected essays that address the question, "Why does family food matter?"

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Recipe: My Mother’s Brisket

From the essay, "Kosher. Or Not." by Barbara Rushkoff, included in The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage:

My Mother’s Brisket

My mom is one of those people who can look at a pot simmering and just know what to throw in. Sure, she does her taste-testing along the way, but usually she’s right on the money. Her brisket is the one dish that I can think about and almost taste. It is so good, so tender, so perfect, and the aroma of it when it is cooking is absolutely tantalizing. So, I’d like to share it with you.

The problem is that my mother cooks from intuition. With that, she mixes in stuff she’s gleaned from newspapers (one year she threw a can of Coca-Cola on the brisket—it was surprisingly delicious) and whatever her memory serves. When I approached her about a recipe for her brisket I was met with some very vague instructions, along with some asides that got thrown in for good measure.

First: Get thee to a kosher butcher. “Get a brisket, not too big, not too small.”

I wish I could tell you what not too big or not too small is, but you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Get one that has no fat through the middle. Ask the kosher butcher; he will know.

Once you get the brisket home, rinse it in cold water and sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. I can’t give you amounts. As my mother says, “You’ll know.”

Turn on your oven to 400˚F. When I asked my mother if she was sure, she asked me if I had a hot oven. I think so. Ovens are hot, right?

Get a large red onion, slice it, and put it on the bottom of the roasting pan with the meat on top (fat side down). My mother pours two cans of au jus gravy over the whole thing and then something she calls Gravy Master.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“It comes in a bottle,” she says, not really helping me.

“How much do I use?”

“A little bit.”

This is where I suggest nixing the Gravy Master and adding a packet of dry onion soup mix or a mixture of spices you like (example: paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper). As I said, my mother used a can of Coca-Cola one year.

Cover the meat with a tight lid and put the meat in the oven. My mother likes to “start high” (400˚F) and then turn it down after an hour of cooking to 375˚F. It all depends on your oven, she says. She has a hot one. Do you?

Overall cooking time is 3 to 3½ hours. How do you know it’s done? It’s just one of those things that you “know.”After 3 to 3½ hours it really does finish cooking, and it’s perfect. Really.

And then, magically, you open the oven and have a wonderful brisket. Let it cool, slice, remove fat from the gravy, and serve. Enjoy!

From The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, © 2013 by Caroline M. Grant & Lisa Catherine Harper. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA.


Comments [1]

Recipe: Potato and Asparagus Salad

From the essay, "Recipe." by Phyllis Grant, included in The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage:

Potato and Asparagus Salad with Crème Fraîche and Poached Eggs

Serves 4 or so

  • Lots of kosher salt 
  • 12 Yukon gold or German butterball potatoes
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, bashed, Microplaned, or finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 10 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces each, or 40 asparagus tips (save the stalks for asparagus stock or soup)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons any kind of white vinegar
  • ¾ cup crème fraîche
  • 3 spring onion stems (or chives), thinly sliced

Fill a large pot three-quarters of the way up with cold water. Add several tablespoons salt. Peel the potatoes and slide them into the water right away. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn down to a simmer. The potatoes are done when a paring knife slides in easily. If you’re not sure, just cut one open and taste. Drain the potatoes in a colander. If they’re falling apart a bit, remove them one at a time with a slotted spoon. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine the shallots and garlic. Cover with the lemon juice and champagne vinegar and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, then slowly whisk in half the olive oil. Taste. This salad is best with a very tangy dressing. Add more olive oil if it’s too strong.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn down to a simmer and add the asparagus tips. Cook very briefly (1 to 2 minutes, depending on size). Taste one. Make sure there’s still some crunch left. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a kitchen towel. Save the broth for soup or lunch or sick kids.

Fill a large wide pot of water for the eggs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat so low that there are no bubbles on the surface of the water. Add the white vinegar and a pinch of salt. Stir. Crack 1 egg into a bowl. Slide the egg into the water. Repeat with remaining eggs. I like the yolks very runny, but I hate it when the white is still raw on top. The only way I know to test for doneness is to use a slotted spoon to pull an egg out of the water and touch the top to make sure it’s completely cooked. Slide an egg onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Remove all the eggs the same way. It’s OK for them to sit for a few minutes. If you want, you can reheat the eggs in the hot water right before serving.

Slice the potatoes and spread them out in a single layer on a big plate or platter. Salt each slice. Spoon on the shallot dressing. Scatter the asparagus tips all over the potatoes. Carefully (or not) blop crème fraîche all over the potatoes and asparagus. Add more salad dressing. Place the eggs on top. Add a few sloshes of olive oil and sprinkle the spring onion slices all over. Serve (and eat) right away.

From The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, © 2013 by Caroline M. Grant & Lisa Catherine Harper. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA.


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