Missing and presumed oblivious

Both my dad and my big brother Homer retired from the Coast Guard.  During their careers the two probably rescued thousands. Dad spent years saving souls off the graveyard of the Atlantic.  Every time a foolhardy captain made the decision to leave harbor during bad weather like hurricanes and nor’ easters and ran into trouble, the Coast Guard, and my father, was there to jump in the ocean and save their reckless, irresponsible kiesters.

On the opposite coast, Homer had tours in both Kodiak and Sitka, Alaska.  And Alaska don’t play.  The weather could get so bad on Kodiak Island that both ships and planes were grounded.  And more than one year Halloween was canceled due to “Kodiak bear activity”.

Wait, wait!  I just want your Reese’s cup…

Honest.

One summer, my folks and The Kid went to visit Homer.  My bro and my child both possess a fair amount of goofy, and really enjoy each other’s company.  I think a lot of my own humor comes from sitting around the dinner table as a child, listening to Homer’s hilarious stories, and trying not to choke on my meatloaf, or blow Kool-Aid out of my nose.

Dinner time!  Oh my God…who gave that woman a knife?  Uh, Joan, how ’bout we put the knife down okay?

Before returning home, Homer gifted The Kid with one of the funniest t-shirts I’ve ever seen.

It had the illustration of both a Coast Guard cutter and helicopter.  Very large letters spelled out the source of my mirth.  It said:

“Support Coast Guard Search and Rescue—Get Lost.”

To me, it was as funny as a pie in the face; but maybe you had to be raised as a ‘Coastie Kid’…The state of being lost brings us to this week’s tale.

When I was 8 or 9, we were living in Elizabeth City.  One of my friends lived just down the street.  Her house was laid out unlike any house I’ve ever seen.  On the second floor, only the front half was finished.  The unfinished back, from the roof line down, was used as an attic.

That’s also where she kept her large Barbie collection, and all the stuff that went with it: house cars, furniture, clothes and accessories.  That’s where we played with them, as well.One afternoon we were playing with her Barbies and decided it was time for the dolls to go to sleep.  So we put our heads down too and closed our eyes for a minute to while our ten-inch friends slept.

The next thing we knew, it was much later in the day.  We had actually fallen asleep.  It was one of those little kid things where the sleep overtakes them like they’ve been hit with a tranquilizer dart.  Deep and instantaneous.

I decided to head home, and my friend stayed home to wait for her mom.   Curiously, her house was completely empty.  The ever-present adult supervision was nowhere to be found.  The streets were empty, as well.As I was walking down the street, I ran into Homer.  He was furious.  Evidently, we had been asleep for quite a while, and every adult in the neighborhood was searching for us.  I told him where I’d been, and what had happened.

He didn’t believe me!  And to this day, he still thinks I was doing something much more exciting than sleeping off an epic Barbie session.

It’s Sleeping Beauty Barbie, and it’s CAKE!!!

The weirdest thing about this tale of lost-ness is the fact that when Petey was a kid, pretty much the same thing happened to him.

Only his story had some bikes, a playmate with a sprained ankle, and a South Carolina forest on a military base.And, instead of all the neighborhood moms looking for him and his buddies, it was the US Army.

Thanks for your time.

Al Fresco called and left a message…

Picnics and eating outside are two different things.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the rich and famous dining on the patio at a fancy restaurant or a couple of kids eating PBJ’s on the back porch—it’s not a picnic.

Picnics are special.  They’re occasions.  They’re a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.  They’re soft focus and sweet music.  They’re courtships and Brideshead Revisited.  They’re white Victorian lawn dresses and Gibson girls playing croquet.  They’re special.The menu is up to you, but there is one that has stood the test of time.  It’s also the menu of choice for just about every picnic scene of every American book ever written.  There are only four items.

The Perfect PicnicFried chicken

Potato Salad

Chocolate cake

Lemonade (pink lemonade is also acceptable, you wild thing)That’s it.  It’s not technically illegal to serve store-bought grub, but it really, really should be homemade.  Use your own favorite recipes and make it yourself.  It will be a picnic that your guests will forever flash to when they hear the word “picnic”.

And, in case you’re lacking a ridiculous, gorgeous, delicious chocolate cake recipe, here is the best one I’ve ever made.  It comes from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.When you make the cake batter, it will be thin.  Crazy thin.  You will panic and think you messed up.  Everybody, when making it the first time, thinks this.  I promise, you haven’t.  It will be the consistency of heavy cream, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.  This batter is perfect and will make a delicious cake with the required structural integrity to hold all the scrumptious frosting.  It’s a confectionary miracle.Remember, you have not messed it up.  It will be spectacular—the Platonic ideal of a chocolate cake.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Recipe courtesy of The Barefoot ContessaBeatty's cakeButter, for greasing pans

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

¾ cups good cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

½ cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffeeChocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour pans.Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, slowly add wet ingredients to dry. With mixer still on low, add coffee and stir just to combine, scraping bottom of bowl with rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling rack and cool completely.Place one layer, flat side up, on flat plate or cake pedestal. With knife or offset spatula, spread top with frosting. Place second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread frosting evenly on top and sides of cake.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

*You can double this recipe, if you like. Then, in addition to frosting the cake thicker, you can pipe on some decorations, too.choc frosting6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (don’t use more chocolate than asked for; the frosting will get too hard, and even crack in places)

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place in heat-proof bowl set over pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.89317d4d79f96afa0c15e7548d87e0abIn bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn mixer to low, gradually add confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of hottest tap water. On low speed, add chocolate and coffee to butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on cooled cake.Summer in North Carolina can try men’s souls.  Some days it’s so gross out there it feels like you’re walking through warm Jell-O.

Which makes those glorious days when it’s not too hot and the humidity is low all the more special.  So Gentle Reader, the next time that you wake up and discover that today we’ve won the meteorological lottery, whip up some grub, gather together your friends and family, and picnic the heck out of it. Thanks for your time.

The Voice Of Reason

Contretemps (kon-truh-tahnz; French kawntruh-than): an unexpected and unfortunate occurrence.  Synonyms include kerfuffle, hurly-burly, fracas, hullabaloo, brouhaha, and Donnybrook.  As a former English major, my mind just boggles at the mischief our language gets up to (and yes, I do know I ended the sentence with a preposition).Due to instantaneous dissemination and digestion of information, issues that formerly only a few involved parties knew about now have global dogs in the fight.  If somebody in Wichita says something stupid and offensive, wired people in both Kansas City and Kazakhstan know, have opinions about it, and feel obligated to weigh in on it.In the past, when people said and did hurtful, illegal, and sometimes just flat-out annoying things, the circle of knowledge and subsequent anger was much smaller.

Now, when an outrage occurs either through ignorance or malice, the news travels around the globe, and the indignation of millions can be ignited in the time it used to take to get out stationary for the writing of a sternly worded letter to the editor of one’s local paper.  Recently a couple of controversies occurred involving area businesses.  Both happened in the real world.  But in both cases, social media spread the word and left much egg on many faces.As a bystander, each controversy seemed easily predictable.  One seemed to stem from the overreaction to a minor provocation by an authority figure, and the other a clear, textbook case of cultural appropriation so blatant it bordered on naked racism.

Oh Jeez…

Social media, in many cases not only spreads the word of the real-world ruckus, it also, in an ever-expanding number, provides the opportunity and venue for offences that then spread like crab grass during a rainy summer.

Some examples:

A person posts a cruel, tasteless “joke” right before getting on an international flight for business.  By the time the plane lands, the thoughtless passenger has become a worldwide pariah, and is unemployed and disavowed by their red-faced former employer.A company attempts to use the historic Mideast turmoil to sell shoes.  A phone company clumsily references 9/11 in an ad.  On Pearl Harbor Day, a soup company makes the mistake of tweeting a flag-waving noodle.

And, pretty much any time Kanye West tweets anything, ever.To hopefully mitigate damage that ensues from these missteps, I suggest the creation of a vital new position for every company in the US.

The voice of reason.  Or, if you like, special executive vice president of the office of not being dumb and getting into easily avoidable trouble.They can recommend guidelines like staying completely away from sexual, socioeconomic, educational, racial, and any other stereotypes that exist.  Just take your hands off the keyboard and walk away.  Just.Walk.Away.

A VOR (Voice of Reason) worth their salt will never let corporations engage in petty back and forth school yard-style bickering with private citizens.  Nobody likes a bully.  Especially not a multi-national bully worth billions.So, for the private social media aficionado without the means to employ their very own VOR, I offer a few tips that may save the pain and infamy that comes from ill-considered postings.

Sure Champ, sure.

Check your sources.  And then check again.  If the information you want to post are so outrageous that only a world-wide conspiracy necessitating the silence of thousands of co-conspirators from all walks of life would make it work, you can be pretty darn sure it’s not true.  That many humans are incapable of keeping their mouths shut—I promise.And I beg you, when drunk or jet-lagged never cut your hair, call your ex, or hit “enter”.Thanks for your time.

 

Year 3.1415

You get a pie!  You get a pie! You get a pie!  Everybody gets a pie!

Somehow, 2018 turned out to be the year of pie.  This year, The Kid has been busier than the Pillsbury Dough Boy making pastry. I love cake.  It’s one of my two favorite foods.  And cake can be homey and comforting; coffee cake and Bundt cake are two tasty examples.  But there’s something about pie.  It’s never fancy.  You never feel underdressed in front of pie.  You never feel judged or challenged by pie.Cake is a delicious, delicious show horse.  Pie is a puppy.  Pie’s just happy to be there.

So happy…

My dad was raised in Depression-era Pennsylvania; home of odd and obscure confections like shoofly, Montgomery, and Tears-On-Your-Pillow pies.  But I think his all-time favorite pie is raisin pie.  Which I think we can all agree, sounds both bizarre and unappetizing.  But we all have some insane childhood treat that we hold dear and would fight to both obtain and defend.

Mine is Goober Grape.  There is always a jar in my kitchen.  I eat it by the stress-obliterating spoonful.Image may contain: foodBut, back to the year of π.

For my dad’s birthday in March, The Kid made him a raisin pie.  He loved it.  Then he and my spawn put their heads together and decided that for Father’s Day, The Kid would create a new pie for her fruit and nut-loving Grampa: a dried cranberry pie with a granola crust.

One possible outcome.

I’ll let you know how it comes out.

For my mom, there was no question; it would be her absolute favorite, egg custard pie.  Last weekend we went to Greensboro bearing pie.

I’m not normally a huge custard pie fan, but it was delicious. But the crust that was a sensation.  It was insanely flaky, even in the center.  It was crispy, and it was delicious. Gramma’s Birthday Egg Custard Pie

egg custard

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 stick butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

8-10 gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Mix all ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake for 35 minutes or until uniformly puffed and lightly browned.

Let cool completely before slicing. Refrigerate leftovers.

Slammin’ Pie Crust

Makes 2 9-inch crustspie crust 5-5-182 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 ½ sticks cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 tablespoons cold water

2 tablespoons chilled Bourbon (Alcohol adds flavor and does not produce gluten in the flour.  Gluten is what makes bread dough stretchy [good], and pie crust tough and rubbery [very bad])Put all ingredients into food processor.  Pulse until it comes together in blueberry-sized pellets.  Turn it out onto floured surface and knead just until it comes together.  Gently shape into two discs and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to four days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to six weeks.When you’re ready to use, roll out into square.  Fold it into thirds, then fold in half.  This will increase the flakiness of the baked crust.  Roll into 9-inch circle, press into pie pan.  Thoroughly chill before filling to decrease shrinkage during baking.  Then fill and bake according to instructions. custard pieSo, if you, Gentle Reader somehow find yourself also observing the year of pie, you could do much worse than using this champ of a pie crust—it’s truly the best one I’ve ever had.  And I will keep you up-to-date on our very own annus scilis.Thanks for your time.

Thoughts One Has at 3 AM in the Emergency Room

Last week The Kid came over for dinner.  We’d finished eating, cleaned up, and were settling in for some embarrassing reality television.

Olly from Inkmasters.  He’s awesome, except he sometimes goes topless and frightens the villagers.

Except Petey had a decidedly odd look on his face which was made odder still by the shade his skin had taken—it was the translucent pinkish-red of strawberry gelatin.  He was also having violent chills, biliousness, and the inability to walk a straight line.  And when he closed his eyes he experienced a spinning sensation not unlike the bed spins a college kid might endure after epically over-imbibing.

But he doesn’t drink.  Something was very wrong.

When I suggested we go to the emergency room, he agreed, which frightened me more than any of his symptoms.After thirteen hours there he was feeling much better.  They diagnosed him with vertigo—scary, but not serious; then sent us home.

But in between Petey, The Kid, and I had many, many hours to sit in their alarming waiting room.  And I had way too much time on my hands.

Lots of time to think lots of thoughts.  I started writing them down around hour five.“Poor boy sandwich?”  Is there a copyright on “po’boy”?  Is there some little old lady getting a cut every time somebody says po’ boy?  OMG—do I owe her some money?

So why is it exactly that they decorated these E.R. bathrooms, 200 miles from the ocean, in a seaside theme?  This tile trim is a horrible shade of spoiled mustard and totally clashes.  And that lobster looks sinister, not friendly.

The next name they call, I’m totally telling them it’s us.That dude needs a style intervention.  He’s got to be at least 50.  Even Vanilla Ice doesn’t dress like Vanilla Ice anymore.

Okay, I swear that very pregnant woman was not pregnant when we got here.

I know the TV is muted, but I think that commercial’s for a skull-of-the-month club.  Why?  And who?  And why?The longer I sit, the more nutritious that Kit Kat bar in the vending machine becomes.

Alright then, that guy walking around has a perforated forehead.  And he’s waiting?  So even with a literal hole in your head you still gotta wait for hours.  But, I’ve got a feeling a nail gun had something to do with that cranial cavity.      

I don’t like corndogs.  I don’t.  So, why do I keep thinking about a vending machine corn dog that I originally thought was a Twinkie?  Hmmm…what might a Twinkie-dog be like?Even I, the proverbial innocent bunny know that there’s no way everyone is gonna get beyond the velvet rope and into an exam room in the next five minutes.  So, mister man, don’t whizz on my leg and tell me we’re up next.

That’s a condom wrapper!  Who on earth decided that here and now is the time to get busy?  I feel like I’m caught in some hellish Gray’s Anatomy episode that never ends.Another trip to the oceanic loo.  Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have had that 20-ounce latte.

Why is there one Kraft macaroni and cheese noodle on the floor by the hole-in-the-head dude?

Like Vegas, E.R. waiting rooms should not have clocks on the wall.Someone in that woman’s life should tell her to step away from the tanning bed.  Her skin resembles nothing so much as a catcher’s mitt.  Johnny Bench called…

I’ll bet there are only 50 calories in that whole Kit Kat bar.  Maybe even 20.  On an unrelated note, did I bring any change?

I wonder if that Poor Boy is still in the machine and what it tastes like.Thanks for your time.

This Porridge Is Too Cool

Taking candy from a baby. .. What show is this?I’ve never stolen candy from a baby (stealing my husband’s though, is a whole other conversation).  Those ASPCA commercials with the Lilith Fair soundtrack break my heart (I’m not crying, you’re crying).  I don’t try to foist my beliefs on others and attempt to not judge people for their convictions (except for those who put mustard and/or Miracle Whip in potato salad, then I will totally judge those evil doers).

So, as character flaws go, I guess this one’s pretty benign.  But it’s still a ding upon my soul.

…and me.

From time to time, I’ll discover and embrace something new seemingly before it’s picked up by anyone else.  Anything really; recipes, authors, music, even mascara brands.  Then the rest of the world recognizes its excellence at a slighter later date.

When this happens, I get a little smug.  It’s mainly in my own slightly swollen head, but Petey and The Kid might hear the tiniest smidge of boasting.And on the flip side, whenever the hoi polloi is fascinated with a new fad or style, I am both wary and disdainful.  I don’t do social media, but if it has so permeated the Facespace and Twaddle that it spills over to the rest of the interwebs, where I may then read about it, then it’s truly reached peak saturation.

When this happens, I’m loathe to consider trying the shiny new.  I really dislike coming late to the party.  So, showing up when the hors d’oeuvre trays are empty and the ashtrays are full just kills me. But the very worst?

When I like it (Good grief, just writing out that statement left a bad taste in my mouth).

But there’s this thing; overnight oats.  There’s something both alluring and elegant mixing up a bowl before bed and having a filling and delicious breakfast waiting on you.There are two types of preparation.  The original begins with oats and goes from there.  But there’s another kind, I call it overnight eats, because the oats are optional.

Overnight Oats

You’ll need a 12-ounce jar (for on-the-go) or a cereal bowl (for home consumption)Add ½ cup old-fashioned oats. 

Pour 1 cup liquid over them.

Some examples:

MilkAlmond milk

Coconut milk

Soy milkChocolate milk

Fruit juice

Then add some mix-ins:

Toasted nutsSeeds

Dried fruit

Fresh or frozen fruit

CoconutNut butter

Add Flavor:

First, a pinch of salt—always

Then:

Cocoa powder or chocolate chipsA tablespoon or 2 of brown butter

Vanilla extract

Cinnamon

NutmegCitrus zest

Chinese five-spice

Garam Masala

Fresh mint or thymeApple Sauce

Mashed banana

Add some sweetness:

Brown or white sugarMaple syrup

Honey

Jam or jelly

Agave syrupMolasses

Dulce de leche

Once your jar is loaded to your taste, seal tightly and shake; if in a bowl, give it a good stir.  Place in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or up to 3 days.When ready to eat, uncover, stir, and add a little milk if it’s too stiff.

Overnight Eats

Instead of milk, use a 1 cup of yogurt of your choice.  Because it’s thicker, you don’t need the oats. You can also go savory.  Add cheese, sautéed veggies, bacon or sausage, and instead of milk, use stock.  Then top it with a poached egg; which you can also make the night before. Just give it a light poach.  Then, in the morning just float it in simmering water for a minute or less to heat and finish cooking.So, I have succumbed to a viral sensation.  But I swear on my cranky little heart that I have not, and never will pinstergram my breakfast.

Thanks for your time.

A Word of Advice

The Kid likes to project a certain image.  Being raised in the city has convinced the child of possessing colossal amounts of “street cred” accumulated from years of living on the mean streets.

Never mind the meanest street with which my baby ever interacted was one particularly ornery avenue that caused a skinned knee during bike-riding lessons.

The Kid is a fraud.Don’t get me wrong; there’s a certain amount of the aforementioned street cred.  My spawn is afraid to go nowhere and is in no way gullible or a soft touch.

But contrary to the vigorously maintained misanthropy, my funny little offspring is full of care and concern toward fellow men.  And corn nuts too—the child is often quite full of corn nuts.I have seen this “misanthrope” walk out of restaurant carrying takeout, only to give it away to someone who needs it.  I also have seen, on more than one occasion, the effort to make things right when we’re in an establishment and another customer is being an arrogant butthead.  Whether it’s doubling the tip or giving the put-upon employee an opportunity to vent, The Kid tries to make it better.

Around the age of four, we were at the grocery store.  The check-out girl and my child were chatting as we were rung up.  The conversation was going well, and The Kid decided the young woman was a new friend.  And had a very important question to ask her.“Do you have somebody that loves you?”

I was only about 20% mortified.  Because I knew what The Kid meant.

The Kid was trying to make sure that this shiny new grocery store friend had people who looked after her and had her back.  Friends and family who made her world a safe, happy place.

And the young worker understood, as well.  “I sure do, Shug.  And aren’t you sweet to ask?”So, that’s The Kid—a stealth altruist.

But promise you won’t let on…there’s that image to protect.

And this secretly sweet child made a New Year’s resolution last year that has taken hold and only brings good things in return.If, Gentle Reader, you’ve read more than a few of these published psychological exsanguinations of mine, then you probably wouldn’t be very surprised to discover that most of what I think is either spontaneously spoken to all present or written down for public consumption.

To some people, the shock is that I actually do censor myself.  I normally only share about 75% of what I think.  To share more would most likely remove that last vestige of doubt that I ain’t right and see me enjoying an extended stay at any one of our state’s many lovely and accredited mental health facilities.This means that I’m constantly striking up conversations with strangers.  And through this I meet awesome people every single day.

If somebody’s rocking an amazing pair of shoes, I tell them.  Is that exhausted-looking mom heroically holding it all together?  I congratulate her doing an impossible job in an exemplary manner.  Is the kid behind the counter efficient and sweet?  I thank the worker, and usually find their supervisor and tell them what a gem they have.What my kind, but uber-reticent child resolved to do is when observing something that deserves praise, gives it.  If speaking up can brighten someone’s day, why stay silent?

So now, my traditionally taciturn tadpole takes the time to talk (too much with the alliteration?).And, inspired by my bambino, I’ve worked hard to overcome my innate bashfulness and attempt sharing as well.

So, now the total’s approximately 78.375%.  Look out World!

Thanks for your time.

This Little Piggy Came Home

piggy bank vidya suryBaking can be a little trickier, but most of the time when I try a new savory recipe, I’m pretty sure of the end result.

But, not always.

I got three pretty pork loin chops a few weeks ago.  They were thick, but not so thick that they’d be a pain to cook.    I got them on sale because they were slightly long in the tooth.  Not so much that they were furry, but soon would be.  So, they needed to be cooked or frozen right away.But the upshot was, I bought three pretty respectable chops for $3.  And, I had a recipe that I’d been wanting to try.  The only thing I needed to pick up was a small carton of half & half.

The recipe was for a garlicky spinach sauce.  Then put the meat in it and serve with egg noodles and a green salad.

Sounds like we had a nice dinner, doesn’t it?

Yeah, not so much.

Unfortunately, is wasn’t this type of funk…

Somewhere along the way, the sauce picked up some funk.  Not funk like food gone bad, but funk like a whole lot of cheese was in it.

But there was no cheese in anything.  I felt like I was in one of those babysitter horror movies, “It’s coming from inside the house!”, only “It’s coming from inside the sauce!”. I think the spinach and mushrooms just turned the earthy flavor of the sauce up to about a thousand and eleven.  It didn’t work.

So, I am not sharing that recipe.  Instead, I’m going to give you a dish that I have been making for as long as we’ve been married.  And because I’ve been making it since well before I could cook worth a fig, it’s easy.

Pork and Zucchini Cream

zucchini pork

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 2 X ½ inch strips

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound zucchini, washed, left unpeeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds

1 yellow onion chopped

4-6 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon dry thyme

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup skim milk

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Big handful of fresh parsley

Salt & pepper

Place the sliced zucchini into colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and let sit for an hour.  After an hour, pat it dry with towel (paper or clean kitchen).

In a large heavy skillet, add half the oil and butter.  When butter’s melted, working in batches, place the zucchini down in one layer and cook at medium-high until there is deep caramelization, flip and cook other side.  Remove to towel-covered plate.  Repeat until all veg is cooked, adding a bit more butter and oil as needed.Add the rest of the fat, onions, and thyme into the same pan and cook until the onions get golden.  Add garlic, and when it just begins to toast, pour in dairy and add pepper flakes.  Lower to medium, bring to boil and let reduce. 

After ten minutes season pork strips and add to sauce.  Cook for ten more minutes or until it’s is of sauce consistency.  Stir in zucchini & parsley and serve over starch of your choice—something unexpected is fun; like Israeli couscous, griddled Texas toast, or grits.

Serves 6.So, there’s a true yin and yang this week.

On the dark side is the reminder that I’m not infallible discerning the flavor of the dish by reading the recipe.

But, on the happier end of the scale, even when I couldn’t cook, every once in a while, I and my diners would get lucky, and I’d turn out something that was actually tasty.Thanks for your time.

The History Tattler

This week, cats and kittens, have I got some catnip for you.

Dateline: 399BC, ATHENS.

A little birdy has whispered that a philosopher may be in a bit of a jam.  There is a group of dikasts (male, citizen jurors) being put together to decide whether said philosopher might be guilty of impiety, and serious corruption of our youth.

It don’t look good, Kittens.  My sources tell me that he may end up at Bar Hemlock for the house cocktail.

Dateline: March 1, 44AD, ROME. What traveler from Egypt, and her relationship with a most royal of royals has thrown our Burg into a tizzy?  While this personage’s wife is above reproach, his girlfriend is not.

I’ve also been told that there may be a bambino on the way.  More than one Roman has seen what they assure me is a very royal baby bump; and that birth will definitely be a “Caesarian”.

Dateline: 522, CONSTANTINOPLE. 

Those in the know are all atwitter.  It seems that an “Actress” has caught the eye of a regal personage.  This “lady” has encouraged a very Just someone to contemplate the need for change in marriage laws of men of senatorial rank or *ahem* higher.

But maybe it’s not for little old me to speculate—it’s all very “Byzantine”…

Dateline: 1492, VATICAN CITY.One of the men rumored to be the next pontiff is known to have at least three children, and possibly dozens more.  No woman is safe around the men of this family, and if his daughter invites you to a meal, make sure you brownbag it, or you may not survive to dessert.

Dateline: 1528, LONDON.

Is there trouble in a very royal paradise?  Tongues are wagging about a trim little spider that may be luring an exceptionally well-placed fly.  Despite the fact that this fly, and his Spanish fly bride have enjoyed wedded bliss for close to twenty years.Many at court have speculated that a change in religion might be in the offing.  Some have said that this slip of a girl has so intrigued the older, but still vital gentleman that he is now worshipping at the church of lust, frustration, and wishful thinking.

Dateline: 1718, JAMAICA.

There’s more than tankards of rum bellying up to bars these days.  There are whispers up and down Kingston Harbour that one of our intrepid privateers who happens to fancy wearing brightly colored cotton fabrics has two very surprising and unusual members on his crew.We’re assured that these mates are as fearsome and bloodthirsty as the men…I mean the rest of the crew.

But, it may behoove us all to become familiar with the term, “Pleading one’s belly.”

Dateline: August 1791, PARIS.

A little birdy, perched precariously in the obscenely elaborate wig of an Austrian woman, has whispered in my ear.And if you have a chateau, have lived in a chateau, or been a guest in a chateau, it would be wise to put down that cake, and get out of town, lest you become familiar with an invention by a certain Dr. Guillotine.

Dateline: June 15, 1803, WASHINGTON DC.

There are rumblings in the capital that a very, very, highly placed personage is interested in an unbelievably large real estate deal.Related imageWe’ve been told that the buyer, a published author and macaroni and cheese aficionado is in talks with French bigwigs to make a “purchase” that may well change the very nature of how we see ourselves.

*And a reminder, cats and kittens, if you have any juicy tips for me, send a note on the Pony Express addressed: “History Tattler”.

Thanks for your time.

This Little Piggy Went To Market

It’s been a pretty awesome week.Last Friday was my birthday, with all the obscenely frosted cake that it implies.  Then, Wednesday was the first afternoon market of the year at the Durham Farmers’ Market.

Petey worked just about his whole nursing career on the third shift, from 7PM to 7AM, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And, I’ve something to say about folks who work the night shift.

One Tuesday morning my mom called about 9:30 to check on The Kid, who’d been up in school in Vermont a couple months. She woke us.

It wasn’t the first time, or the second, and I got a little snappish.  And so did Mom.

First, she called me a “lazy thing”, for being asleep at that time.  I explained we’d gone to bed at 3AM.  So, she asked why Petey and I didn’t go to bed earlier on Mondays.  Because when Petey had gotten home from work on Monday morning, he was exhausted and slept until 4PM.And if he switched his sleep to a more conventional schedule every Monday, he’d have to flip it back at the end of the week.  And, I’m no sleep expert, but I’m guessing that after a couple months of poking his circadian rhythm with a sharp stick, he’d be insane or dead.

I will end with this entreaty.  If you know someone who works when the rest of the world is sleeping, have a heart.  Don’t visit during the day.  Don’t ask them to give you a ride, or babysit, or be functional at 1:00 in the afternoon.  It is the same as someone showing up at your house at 3AM on a Wednesday to try to get you to have pizza and binge watch “Stranger Things”.So, have a heart.  That person you don’t bug when you think they should be out and about in the middle of the day might be the person manning the emergency room when Grandma falls and breaks her wrist on a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Anyway.

My point was that the Saturday farmers’ markets are just too early for some (me).  Which is why the Wednesday market makes me so very happy.This year, there’s a plan: each time I visit, I will purchase food that I’ve neither cooked, nor eaten.  I will then pick the brains of both the farmer, and fellow buyers as to preparation.

Last Wednesday, I bought escarole.  It’s a bitter green beloved by Italians and is big in bean dishes and Italian wedding soup.  I chose to sauté it.

Garlic Lemon Escarole

escarole

4 slices bacon, cooked crispy and reserve 1 tablespoon of grease

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

2 large bunches of escarole

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup toasted pistachios

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt & pepper

Wash escarole by filling sink with cold water.  Swish each bunch and drop into water.  The detritus will drop to bottom of sink.  Wait a few minutes then gently remove escarole without disturbing dirt.

While escarole is soaking put garlic into large skillet with bacon grease and cook on medium-low until garlic browns.  Remove garlic and set aside.  Turn to medium.

Pat dry.  Cut into 2-inch pieces. add to skillet, and cover.  Cook 8 minutes or so until completely wilted.

Remove cover, stir in pepper flakes and pistachios, then cook until tender (5-7 minutes).

Take off heat and stir in lemon juice.  Season, taste and season again, if needed.Plate and top with browned garlic and crumbled crispy bacon.  Serves 4.

Thanks for your time

French Market Bag Pattern by Two of Wands