I’m pretty sure it’s the hot and muggy weather that’s gotten to my cook gene, but I’ve been in a slump when it comes to meals. I mean, really, for the love of Pete, do you people have to eat every day, multiple times each day?! In my kitchen, we don’t have the dog days of summer; we’ve got the crab days. So, it was quite an unexpected gift – a Christmas in July, if you will – when I got on a food bender. I had been thinking a lot lately about how time flies – we’re already getting things together for the boys to go back to school – which sent me on the nostalgia engine to when I was a girl getting ready to go back to school. I will spare you the brain train that got me from that all the way to remembering things I loved most about summer dinners with the family … Dad would be grilling kebabs or pork chops or burgers and yelling at us to stop doing whatever we happened to be doing in the pool. Mr. Long would be next door swaying in his hammock smoking one of his stinky cigars, occasionally yelling a hello or random commentary on George’s grill skills over the fence. Bill would be across the street mowing his grass for the umpteen time staring daggers at us if we even thought about riding our bicycle near his property. And Mom would be inside whipping up the rest of dinner, probably grateful for the quiet.
Beans. The Rodney Dangerfield of of the food world. They get no respect. Though poems have been written about them, they are the sort of poesy that brings unwanted parental attention upon recitation.: Beans, beans, the musical fruit …. Beans, beans, good for your heart … You can sing them both, can’t you? Beans need the PR that prunes got a few years back … dried plums, anyone? Though beans are highlighted in practically every cuisine worth mention, for most of us, they are relegated to side dish just meant to round out a meal. And here I am … relegating them to side dish. Irony. Well, no, I am not relegating anything. Pat is. How to get in good with your mother-in-law? Throw her under the bus. These are Pat’s beans. Pat Smith is my mother-in-law and she introduced me, nay, opened my eyes to the deliciousness that is these baked beans. Though the pic above has the beans as a side, these beans are my main. Fresh and hot? to die for. Cold out of the fridge for breakfast? move over coffee. Yes, these beans are that good.
If I were given the opportunity to pick my last meal on earth, I would choose, without hesitation, spaghetti ala olio. Or as we’ve called it since childhood, spaghetti ollie oley. Though some dishes have more significant memories attached or elegant ingredients, none make my taste buds happier.
Noodles in oil tossed.
Golden garlic shaves atop.
Grated cheese completes.
Casseroles have a bad rap. And rightly so if the spokesmodel for the category is that tan viscous, flaccid-noodled, hot tuna dish with potato chip topping. Oh, the inhumanity. I know people love the stuff. I, however, am of the other camp. Just entering Lent, I have had my share of flashbacks to Fridays when chances were at least a few of them would feature tuna casserole in Mom’s go-to red Pyrex bowl with gold embellishments. Lipstick that pig all you want, the stuff was horrid. No offense to Bunny, generally an awesome cook (discounting the liver and onions fiasco of my youth and her wayward foray into lima beans; bletch). The upside was that I would always consider eating the casserole as my Lenten penance for the day, freeing up whatever chocolate was around for guilt-free consumption.
That’s all you’ve got to say and they come running. Few things make me as content in the kitchen as making pizza. It’s a slow-down, wine-in-hand, stop-and-smell-the-pepperoni, family-absorbing time. I putter around making dough and sauces, cutting up, and sauteeing… it can take as little as half-an-hour to prep or upwards of half a day, depending on my mood. Both can turn out faboo pies and attract wayward family members from the far corners.
It’s been 148 years since I’ve had any desire to go out on the eve of the new year. The combination of amateur hour, price-gouging, over-crowded rooms and bad food, not to mention the elusive NYE babysitter, have made staying in not only the better option but something I look forward to. We get to visit another country (and this year have the added bonus of visiting an alternate world of witches and wizards) without leaving the house. The end of 2013 saw BD, the fellas and I visiting Spain in the company of Harry Potter and gang.
In the same way that peanut butter and rubber tires were great inventions born of ill-conceived projects, this soup arrived by way of a fortuitously painful batch of jalapeno beer.
The first Christmas that we spent as a family in our new home outside of Richmond, VA, Stephanie – after shopping and shopping … and a bit more shopping – came up with the perfect gift for Ryan: Mr. Beer, a kit for the novice beer home brewer. After stinking up the house with a lager brew session followed by a chocolate stout, Ryan branched out, one might say way out, with a jalapeno beer. His “recipe” consisted of making one of the kit beers and throwing in “a few jalapenos” for flavor.