Thursday, July 28, 2022

We Have a Connection, Home is Where the Heart Should Be

Cashew Lettuce Wraps
I followed this recipe, but used ground turkey for this Asian oral sensation. Lots of Umami happening in these edible cups with the ginger, soy, Hoisin, garlic combo.  The toast on the cashews, then biting into fresh green onions and the crisp iceberg is so satisfying and bright. 

I'm a retail lifer it turns out.  I've seen many a company, sold many things from eye glasses to music to home furnishings.  I grew up in a factory town where giant companies were king.  A person could build a life when they signed on to Magnavox or Sunbeam Bread, General Electric or International Harvester.  Things have changed in many ways.  I work for a larger retailer and it is solid, we are even going to make a bonus this year for the first time in 10 years.  However, unlike before when you worked for a faceless company, now there is more of a connection, a unified goal.  These institutions are going down, stability is no-longer guaranteed.  When I sell a kitchen, I feel like it does matter, not just to some top executive collecting a fat paycheck somewhere but to the whole of the staff.  When I see a major retailer closing, its a scar from this lashing we all just took in the pandemic.  And I remember being a child when the aforementioned factories shut down in my town and the headlines were full of suicides and tragic stories.  People lost their homes and kids I went to school with, their families split up.  PCP became a dominant drug in town. So, this is a new relationship because before when money was pouring in, it was hard to see how important these big machines are to our economic health overall.  I had forgotten how whole towns can be affected in so many dreadful ways.  The long-haul supply issue has lasted up to two years and has been a major weigh down of our infrastructure where I work.  As it begins to subside, I see how great our foundations were built.  All of these connected designers, manufactures, delivery drivers, shipping companies, packaging methods, etc work to bring us to these end results, which is a family cooking dinner in their brand new affordable, relatively green, organized kitchen and in turn, I get to make these lettuce cups on a hot summer day in my over-priced non-renovated Brooklyn apartment that I wouldn't trade for anything.  
For breakfast a griddle taco finished in the oven to let the eggs puff up and shell to get nice and toasted, topped with pico de gallo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Give Me Some Sugar My Little Honey Bee

BBQ Braised Country Pork Ribs
Making your own BBQ sauce is like making mud pies as a kid.  It's so fun creating on the spot, whatever you want it to be.  So many ingredients taste amazing in a BBQ sauce once you get the basics going.  Some love sweet, some love mustardy, some like to bring the heat.  Today, I wanted a bit of tang mixed with just a hint of sweet and most definitely some pepper but not overwhelming.  Ketchup, Worcestershire, honey, mustard, apple cider vinegar, spices, onion and garlic slow simmered until everything married gave a rich glaze to slather onto my braised country pork ribs.  Brown Sugar is probably best, but I didn't have any so used honey to sweeten and it was fabulous!

Don't ask

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Let Me Take You to An Island of the Sweet Cool Breeze

Jerk Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
She won for prettiest dish.  And then she slapped my face with so much heat that my tongue broke up with me mid-swallow.  I love pepper.  I can handle high levels.  I think because the shrimp are so tiny, that they drank up that jerk sauce and packed a punch.  The refreshing pineapple salsa, queso fresco and pickled cabbage helped to balance that heat and gave this a very exciting tropical vibe.

When they say Hot and Spicy, they ain't kiddin'.
I toasted these shells on the griddle pan to add the least amount of warmth to the already staggering temperature in the kitchen.  The air conditioners can only do so much and this sweltering summer proved that I need to find more cold dish recipes.  Fruit salsas can be the perfect choice for topping meats, tacos, tostadas, rice and even eggs to cool your chi.  
Pineapple Salsa
  • small cubed fresh pineapple (smash a few pieces to release juice to add to the mix)
  • red onion diced
  • jalapeno diced
  • tomatoes diced
  • cilantro - 1/2 cup chopped
  • Lime juice and zest 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil

Monday, July 25, 2022

Come On and Let Me Taste Your Stuff

A Quick Stove-top Chicken and Peppers in Spicy Tomato Sauce
In the largest flat pan, I browned chicken thighs, set aside, then cooked my peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic and onions in the pan juices along with some flour.  When almost cooked, I added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste and worked that in until deepened in color before adding chicken broth, stirring until all the fond was incorporated from the bottom of the pan.  The chicken went back in on top, covered and simmered for about 40 minutes. I used up my leftover corn meal from the day before to sop up some of the sauce.  
Cooks get more foreplay with their meals because we see the beginnings, the vibrant pure starts and colors to the vegetables.  We hear the chicken skin getting crisp, smell the garlic release it's aroma.  Seeing the little tomatoes bright and perky before surrendering and combining with the rest of the dish gives a personal connection.  It's all a huge part of the final eat that I treasure. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

If You Could See Yourself Baby, The Way I See You

A Quick Pantry Meatball Soup
A fast pantry soup using frozen broccoli, canned tomatoes, leftover rice and ground beef, onion and garlic to form little meatballs dropped in enriched broth via 'Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef base.  This tasted like it had been simmering all day but came together with little effort. 
Well-dressed Salami and fresh corn salad
Earlier I made a giant salad with all vegetables in the fridge.  Salami, eggs, olives, broccoli, mushrooms, fresh corn, sweet onions, and tomatoes over a very well dressed bunch of romaine lettuce and some crumbled bleu cheese.  For me, the key to serving a salad as a meal, is it needs to burst with variety so that your eyes get excited and talk your stomach into believing this is a special treat, which it is. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Just Give Me One Thing That I Can Hold On To

Midwest Summer Covid Trip 
Alton, Illinois

Alton, Illinois, P's hometown - on the Mississippi River bluffs
My dear mother in law became ill with Covid and was hospitalized.  Of course she didn't tell her kids because she didn't want them to worry but when we found out, we feared the worst.  We had planned to fly over to visit in Illinois but now rushed to get there and hoped to be proper nurses if needed be.  Our thought was surely she would infect her husband and assumed they would both be bedridden when we arrived and we'd administer care, cook and fetch supplies as needed. We both know how horrible one can feel and could not imagine doing it in 85 year old bodies.

But, although, clearly sickly and needing more rest, MJ greeted us on the couch pretty as a picture and Bub was reading the paper looking healthy as a horse.  The vibe was calm.  She had been treated with some of the new meds and steroids for COVID and was feeling no pain.  They were putting on a good face and were so hospitable as they always are.  The house was immaculate and there was plenty of soda and beers, snacks and love.  After realizing the situation was stable and we weren't needed to do anything but visit, we settled in to a nice stay that would turn into a Midwest Road Trip.                                

Late night Wendy's delivery tasting menu at a hotel!  Apple Pecan Salad, Chicken Tenders, Loaded fries, Chili, bacon Wendy's burger.  When you're too tired to drive again but hungry as heck late at night; fast food delivery is not as bad a choice as you'd imagine.  Everything was freshly made, cheap and damn good!

Arby's Chicken, Bacon and Swiss and some BBQ number for P.  Surprisingly good roadside fast food with table service.  An old gentleman host at the front asked us if we wanted to dine in, or take out.  
I didn't realize how much fast food we had but I will say that in the city, you can't do fast food, its not to be trusted.  Nothing is clean, rarely is it run well.  Usually someone is threatening violence, causing a scene.  So, when we get a chance to experience Arby's in a controlled environment, it's actually quite pleasant. 
Fort Wayne, Indiana - my hometown
As stated on the sign, Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island Hot Dog Shop, over 100 years old, a city institution.  Unfortunately, we were stuffed and couldn't eat one.

In the 70s my dad helped build this downtown park, Freimann Square. He wrote his name in the concrete somewhere but I couldn't find it. 
My mom on one of the bulldozer rigs as they were breaking ground for the park in the early 70's.  Dad drove us to see the big project his company was working on I remember thinking that my mom looked like a Mexican Eva Gabor from Green Acres. 
General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne

Stoner's Funstore - use to be an old haunt as a kid for gag gifts and magic tricks, costumes.  I spent hours browsing in this musty shop killing time while waiting for my parents who ran a restaurant downtown. 
The Indiana Hotel, birthplace of my parent's first restaurant
Our second house in Fort Wayne where I squandered my youth and made many poor life decisions from 14 until I left at 21.

A meaningful intersection from my youth - this was the exit out of 'the east end' neighborhood
Pizza from a local pizza delivery 
My parent's second restaurant location, now called Mi Pueblo, used to be El Charro
P had the steak fajitas
I had Tio Sam's, an incredibly savory sauce with shrimp, chicken and beef.  I can't describe the depth of that sauce! It was so peppery hot, yet I could not stop eating it, sopping it up with my tortillas, sweating, runny nose and all.  Delicious!  I believe the folks that run this could be related to the immigrants employed by my father many years ago. 

Real buffalo on the range, well, a state park in Indiana anyway
Wabash Lake - rock hard beach but a desolate oasis to swim

Late night gas station pizza bites, ham sliders and an ice cream sandwich - all very regrettable....let's move on

Pulled Pork sandwich and Italian Sub below from the Fairfax Bar and Grill at Lake Monroe, Indiana

The hotel had an eerie Stanley Hotel feeling from the Shining film. 
Grilled Chicken Greek Salad and Chicken Tenders and Fries from the Windjammer Bar
The pool was half inside, half  out.  I don't know how to feel about that.
Coffee and breakfast sitting on red Adirondack chairs watching the day break and all the smells sites and sounds of a Midwestern lake is comfort I'd love to bottle and take home to Brooklyn.
Tacos from the Windjammer Bar and Grill
The best times are when you think something is going to end tragically and instead you are rewarded with a pile of delicious days of celebration and get to spend time with the best people.
Back to the city

Did I mention they gifted P a truck? My secondary gift was I finally understand John Prine after listening to hours of recordings on the road.