The good news is my little show opens in less than two weeks and we’re right on track. The bad news is my little show opens in less than two weeks and I’m plagued with the world’s worst chest cough. For better or for worse, I’ll soon be standing in front of hundreds of people at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, and I’m hoping with all I’m worth that I won’t be up there honking like an agitated goose.
Thank goodness for Air Supply’s Greatest Hits to ease my anxiety.
I’m comforted, too, by the memory of the last meal I prepared for Mom and Handsome Greg that I truly tasted—Crab Cakes with Orange Aioli—before cough drops became my primary source of sustenance and “mentholyptus” killed my taste buds. The crab cakes were exceptionally crabby—you could easily add more breadcrumbs and make more cakes. They were moist and flavorful with a crispy, golden crust, and the accompanying dip was a perfect balance of creamy mayo, pungent garlic, and bright, fresh orange zest.
My blog is having a mid-life crisis. I’m a little concerned that my blog may get a flashy, new template, buy a convertible, and start dating a much younger blog.
See, when I first began sharing recipes from my tiny galley kitchen, I imagined my recipes would feature ingredients like fiddlehead ferns, duck confit, persimmon, and dry vermouth (Vermouth?! You can’t HANdle vermouth!).
And here I am, two and a half years later, blogging about refried beans on toast and wondering, what happened? Well, the truth is, a tasty, satisfying lunch that never fails to remind me of my most memorable summer happened.
The summer before my junior year of high school I went on a service trip to a tiny village outside of Mexico City. Each morning we traveled in the back of a pick-up truck along the side of a mountain to our work site. After a few hours of labor, that same pick-up returned with our lunch – a tray full of crusty rolls smeared with refried beans, topped with a slice of American cheese. And it might’ve been the heat, or the hard-earned hunger, or perhaps it’s my fuzzy memory, but I’m pretty sure those simple sandwiches were better than all the fiddlehead ferns and duck confit in the world.
And so, in a fit of gooey nostalgia, I recreated my favorite culinary memory. I toasted split club rolls and topped them with a generous dollop of refried beans dressed up with prepared salsa and cumin. A thin slice of pepper jack cheese melted over top sealed the deal.
The conniving nightshade sneaks into salsa, it prowls in pasta, and it lurks in jambalaya, waiting to make its deadly move. Just one bite of a bell pepper and I’m a pathetic wheezing heap, my lips swollen like a Hollywood collagen job gone terribly wrong.
For years I avoided green salsa in every Mexican restaurant, for fear that the lovely olive color might be enhanced by the scoundrel bell pepper. And as a sad consequence, I never tasted the delightful tang of tomatillos.
Until now. I made this recipe for Mom and Handsome Greg, and instantly fell madly in love with the tart tomatillo sauce warmed through with a healthy teaspoon of smoky cumin. I filled corn tortillas with a luxurious and creamy chicken mixture, then doused them with the silky tomatillo sauce and topped them with a generous handful of gooey cheese.
Next time I make this dish I’ll use white cheddar – the orange cheese with the green salsa was a little off-putting. Otherwise it was perfect.
In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.
Bar. Food. Nirvana.
This sandwich tastes just like a jalapeno popper should — spicy, smoky, tangy, fried. CRONCH through the buttery toast like crispy breading on the outside, into the creamy filling, with meaty bacon, gooey cheddar, and bright, acidic pops of pickled jalapenos. And then have a beer.
Big news, imaginary internet people: I’m having the best week ever!
After eight long months of unemployment, as of this morning I have a job.
I’m the newest member of the marketing team at Free Spirit Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Everyone I’ve met there over the course of the three (count ‘em, three!) interviews feels like a friend already, and they (we!) do really important work – publishing books on positive youth development and resources for kids and teens.
I start in two weeks, so I guess I’d better get used to waking up before Days of Our Lives.
And there’s another reason I’m on cloud nine these days. I made an Argentinian-inspired dinner for Mom and Handsome Greg on Saturday night, and the corn empanadas with orange-infused honey were – gosh, can I even say it? – the best thing I’ve ever made.
I don’t like to play favorites, and that’s a really big thing to say, but these empanadas with their sweet, sticky sauce deserve the accolades.
The combination of flavors and textures – sweet, succulent corn, biting peppers and onions, salty bacon, gooey cheese, bright cilantro, crispy fried dough, and floral, citrusy honey – absolutely warrants my blatant abuse of tired adjectives.
There was much more orange honey than needed for the 12 empanadas, and it’s been a treat finding other things (besides a spoon) off of which to lick it. For starters, Mom’s popovers:
The bad news is we may not be able to do the show at all. Normally I fund the show myself out of my sorry-ass checking account. Times being the way they are, that’s not a possibility this year. My theatrical co-conspirators and I are planning to put up a fund-raising page on Kickstarter.com, and hopefully we’ll be able to raise the money we need by the Fringe withdrawal deadline in mid-March.
And so, in the coming months you might find cheap and easy casseroles and sandwiches in my galley kitchen as I prepare and scrimp and save for the festival. Hopefully this beautiful and elegant appetizer recipe will tide you over until I can get back to cooking hard-core.
This scallop dish started off the final schmancy-town dinner I made for Mom and Handsome Greg before I threw myself into Fringe last year. Wonton skins are fried and shaped into crispy bowls to carry the seared scallops and spicy-sweet pineapple and cucumber salsa.
Last weekend I made a special dinner for Handsome Greg’s birthday. The meal began with his favorite pepperoni-stuffed chicken, and ended, sadly, with a boxed yellow cake mix and canned chocolate frosting.
I’d planned to make individual Boston cream pies, and in my birthday dinner dream, I would emerge from the kitchen looking like Donna Reed, carrying rounds of moist, airy sponge cake, layered with silky pastry cream and topped with glossy chocolate ganache.
By noon on Saturday, I had to face the fact that my Donna Reed fantasy was not to be realized that day. I was already behind schedule on the cooking and cleaning, when my very first attempt at making pastry cream ended with a gloopy bowl of disaster Play Doh. D’oh!
Dessert was ruined. I called Mom, had a bit of a temper tantrum, and asked her to drop everything and run to the store for a can of chocolate frosting to top the back-up boxed cake mix in the pantry. And because my mom rules, she humored me and my ridiculous meltdown, and she saved dessert.
I really think this time (yes, THIS TIME) I have learned my lesson about trying new recipes on special occasions. The truth is, I hate testing recipes, because I don’t want to have to make the same recipe twice. I’m always eager to try new recipes, so going back to old ones, even to make corrections, seems a terrible bore.
But I can change. And I’m starting with this recipe for spicy herbed green rice. I made it last summer for Mom and Handsome Greg to accompany a pineapple braised pork roast, and it’s so good, and so cheap, and so simple, that I promise to make it, as is, again and again!
Or maybe next time I’ll change it up and add roasted poblano peppers…