Friday, October 19, 2012

I'm cranky and crabby

And I'm eating everything in sight as if I haven't seen food in a month. OK, it only seems that way to me. But after grazing through all the 'fresh' food around here on this chilly dank day - a banana, a kirby cuke, celery stalk, Hey! Don't laugh, I bet you have your days too! And You, you know who you are, quit worrying that I usually don't eat. Seriously. - I had a hankering for soup. But since I didn't do the full Hunter-Gatherer thing this weekend, the only canned variety here is tomato. Blech. (Sorry to all you tomato soup lovers - my dear Husband included - but it's not my cuppa.)

Then the Bubbles dropped orzo and bits of leftover veg in my lap and an idea was born. So I foraged the fridge for a half tomato, a sprig of rosemary, the remains in a box o'chicken stock and a pathetic little shallot. Then I grabbed the pasta and 4 tiny garlic cloves (to equal an average-sized one) and set to put my craving to rest.

Here goes:
-Bring about a cup of chicken stock to a boil in a pan/small pot that has a lid and toss in a good healthy handful of orzo pasta, a little salt and pepper, the rosemary leaves from the sprig, and let simmer mostly covered until al dente. As it cooks, you may need to add more stock or water so it stays moist and risotto-ish.
-Meanwhile in another pan, gently saute about a T of chopped shallot and the aforementioned garlic - minced - in olive oil.
-When translucent, add about half a large tomato that you've diced and a half t red pepper flakes and let 'em go on med low til the tomato breaks down a bit and has given up some juice.
-Add the creamy orzo to the pan so all the flavors combine. Taste for seasoning.
-Pour into a bowl and shave on some ricotta salata.

Oh, and this is a single serving.

Yes, I put it in a bowl. I wasn't giving in to the crabbiness and eating out of the pan. That's what dishwashers are for. Besides, when I finished, so had the crankies.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A helping hand for an ailing foot...

Well, technically leg...but 'helping arm' doesn't work. Anyway...

Every Wednesday afternoon, a friend and I meet for a cuppa tea and mutual support. Most times we converge on a gourmet market that has an open seating area where my friend knows at least one other patron. But a couple times I've gone to her home and last week, I had no choice.

When vacationing on the Outer Banks 11 years ago, a really rough wave tossed and turned Jeremy to the extreme. We thought he'd want to spend the rest of our beach time on the sand, but he stood up and let out a decisive 'Oh Yeah!' before going in for more. Last Monday, a similar wave found my friend on the Jersey Shore and broke her leg. In three places. Oh my. Not good for an active woman in her 60s. Not good for anyone, really.

But my friend is a trooper. She laughed her way through the story and the afternoon. And we lost track of time, as usual. Before I left, I did the one of the few things I do well: I asked what I could do to help. Turns out it was dinner time and she - and her cat - were peckish. So I did the other thing I do well: I fed them. Lilly the cat was can, dump in bowl, add a bit of water...reminded me of Sizzle.

It was a little trickier for my friend since I didn't know what she had. But she pointed me toward some leftover this - pasta salad with pesto and spinach - and that - canned cannelloni beans - and I added a few  cubes of mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. There were a few other things in this 'salad,' but for the life of me I can't remember what. Guess it didn't matter, or she was famished, being incredibly grateful and polite, because she said it was delicious.

But it gave my muse - the bubbles - some juice: Instead of stuffed burgers for dinner as I'd planned (but didn't have buns or cheese for the stuffing), why not make a large, leftover this and that, sloppy joe on ciabatta bread instead? Why not indeed!

Here goes:

-In a skillet, crisp up 4 oz bacon cut into 3/4-inch pieces.
-Then add 1 diced medium onion, 1 lb ground beef, 3 minced garlic cloves, a mostly-seeded minced jalapeno, 1 t cumin, 1/2 t cayenne, 2 T tomato paste, 1 1/2 T brown sugar, 1 t smoked paprika and a few dashes of bitters. Yes, bitters...I was looking for a savory element to add and lit on the bitters when I opened the fridge. It worked!
-Saute until the meat is well broken up, cooked through and kinda caramelized, about 12 minutes depending on the size of your pan.
-Cut the ciabatta horizontally and scoop out much of the crumb from both halves - so you can get all that yum onto the bread, of course! Spoon on the filling, cut into 'manageable' servings, and provide lots napkins.

So with some Peanut Butter Wild Cookies I made earlier, my friend had dinner and dessert and so did we... The genesis of inspiration never fails to amaze me. And who knows? Maybe food can heal a broken leg too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

His memory is a blessing...

All that's missing is his hat.
I got many things from my Dad: my curly hair, my love of sports, my taste for whiskey, my appreciation of silly jokes and my optimistic outlook. Oh, and my penchant to don a hat.

Rarely seen outside without one, Dad’s hat of choice was usually a cowboy hat. To go with his cowboy boots of course, and his love of the Southwestern landscape.

In some ways, Dad was born about 90 years too late... But he wasn’t particularly fond of horseback riding and he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello or the Dead End Kids. So instead, he was the littlest – best dressed – cowpoke East of the Mississippi.

But he wouldn’t have just missed out on the comedy … there was the music. Music that filled our house – and car – by radio or recording … Classical. Jazz. Big band. And opera. Dad’s music was the soundtrack of our childhood.

When the opportunity presented itself a few years ago, Dad actually stepped onto the opera stage… We referred to his performances as “Mike in Tights” because yes, he did wear tights one year. Ah, if only Dad could sing! Good thing that as a silent extra he didn’t have to. But we all knew he was humming along.

Dad enjoyed tradition and created some that became routine.

Whenever Nat King Cole came on the radio, he’d say: That man could sing the basketball scores from the Sunday paper and it’d be a hit!

When the freight train would rumble by the baseball fields during one of my guys’ games he’d check the time on his watch and invariably say: The 2:15 or the 5:20 or the 11:13 – right on time! Dad had such an effect on people that my friends would say it even on the rare occasion Dad didn’t make it to a game.

And one of Mark’s and my favorite traditions happened at breakfast on Sunday mornings…When we were all served, Dad would make sure he had two extra pieces of bacon…and when only the eggs were left on our plates and all we wanted was another piece of bacon, Dad would hand us each one of the ‘extra’ pieces from his plate. I don’t know how old I was when I realized he took more just so he could give us that treat, but I was old.

That was Dad. He had a particular knack to make everyone around him feel special.

And while some would say I got my easy smile from him, no one’s smile came easier or brighter than Dad’s. It was a beacon of friendship, kindness, caring and goodness. And with it, he told the world: Join me and we’ll get through it together.

Flashing that grin, Dad made friends – true, heartfelt friends – everywhere he went: the local bakery, the bank, the cafĂ© and yes, even the hospital, where he’d chat on end with the receptionists before AND after going to rehab. He was so important to them that they took good care to ease our visits during these past months and we’re grateful.

I’m not going to tell you how much Dad loved each of you. You already know because he told you each time you were together. It was in his firm handshake; his tight hug; his tender kiss.

It was in his eyes Saturday evening when I told him he made the sun shine in my life and that I am who I am because of him…

…All our lives have been richer and sweeter having known him.

To celebrate my father and one of his favorite treats, here's a link to the previously posted Ebinger's Blackout Cake.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The tenth good thing about Sizzle

Sizzle, when he joined our family
I suppose it's serendipitous that more than 16 years ago, when we presented Dill with three choices with which to name our first cat, he chose the one that's also a cooking term: Sizzle. That's not why he picked it, of course. I think he liked the spunk of the eponymous cat puppet on TV and it was fun to say for an almost 3-year-old.

For a loooooong time, Sizz lived up to his namesake's spunk ... even when we moved (and he spent an hour in his litterbox before venturing out to explore) and when we rocked his kitty world by adopting Austen (our second cat, a rather large ginger tom fluff-ball who once prompted the exclamation: What is that?) ... but every sizzle starts to fizzle, and our guy began to decline about a year and a half ago when he developed thyroid disease. Six weeks ago, Sizz went from bad to worse with a limp-causing, fast-growing lump on his knee...and we began the process of saying good-bye.

Big sigh. I believe Sizzy's mournful wails warned the Banshees that he wasn't ready. And despite his making garbage of three gorgeous wool area rugs, I wasn't either.

Our mornings start with a vocal greeting from Sizz and Austy at the bedroom door to make sure we know they want fresh food and water. I don't know how Sizzy got up the stairs the past two weeks, but I cuddled his ailing body on the way down. And our evenings begin with him circling the kitchen island as I cook and he M'ows for wet food or as we call it, crack. Then there're the second dinners and the thirds. I pamper him with thawed tiny shrimp for the last one.

When people say "you'll know when it's time," you will. And it's scary. Dill realized he wouldn't see Sizzy again, so he made his peace before returning to school. But I kept looking for signs; though for me they were too gradual to discern.

Until yesterday. I realized he hadn't moved much from the heating grate in the kitchen, so I brought some of his favorite shrimp to him... He ate most of it, then lost all interest. Late afternoon, other things told me it was time, so I rang the vet to make arrangements. We discussed this as a family, but I was elected to be the sole human to accompany Sizz. So I swaddled him like a baby in an old towel, packed up a couple shrimp in case he ... oh, I don't know ... I'm a Jewish mother who tries to be prepared for anything... and gently laid him on the front seat with the warmer on and drove to the vet; one hand on the wheel and one on his cheek.

It was quiet; it was quick and I was home within the hour.

This is the first time I had to do anything like this... and pardon the pun, but I'm kind of at a loss... I'm not a huge animal lover, but my cats became more than 'living furniture.' They wove into the fabric of our family. As a sleeping pre-schooler, Dill exclaimed: No Sizzul, I don't wantamawy you. And Jere was struck by the fact that within their same 16 years, Sizz was at the end of his life while he was approaching the prime of his youth.

Throughout this passage, I kept thinking about Judith Viorst's story, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, where a boy's mother suggests he create this list about his cat who just died as a way of dealing with his sadness. So, in no particular order, here are the 10 Good Things About Sizzle:

* He was our family's Alpha Male.
* He was more dog than cat, greeting us at the door and telling us when it was food time.
* He never brought home gifts of maimed birds or rodents.
* He lived in harmony with the boys' pet mouse and guinea pig.
* He came when we called for him and replied when we M'owed to him.
* He didn't mind when I affectionately started calling him "Old Man."
* He nipped at our heels as we climbed the stairs.
* He nipped at our hair from the back of the couch.
* He was very social.
* He showed his affection by pressing his forehead against mine, a kitty head bump.

So to celebrate Sizz, here's a recipe featuring his favorite food: Shrimp.

Here goes:

-In a bowl, combine 1 T olive oil, chiffonade (thin ribbons) of 10 or so basil leaves, zest and juice of 2 limes, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 1 and a half long hot peppers or 2 jalapenos thinly sliced, 1 t each ground black pepper and salt.
-Add 1 pound (16-count is good) peeled, deveined shrimp with tails on and marinate for 10 minutes or so while heating the grill. (Cast iron skillet works well too.)
-Grill (or saute) until pink and serve over jasmine rice.

Ah, poor Sizzy Kitty. I still look for you around the house and probably will for quite some time. May your memory be for blessing.