Behold the great cook!

Everything I do turns out perfect. My family raves and shouts “Brava! Brava!” at every meal. My coworkers swoon over my cookies and my friends beg for my lasagna. I am magnificent – perfection itself – the acme of home cookery!

And I also have some beach front property for sale in Florida if you are interested and a good deal on the Brooklyn Bridge to boot.

Every so often, I loose the ability to cook tasty food. I don’t know what it is – something in my brain just doesn’t connect and dinner will be a disaster. It will look fine – nothing burned, nothing raw –but the taste will be absolutely awful. A couple of years ago, I had a four day streak of cooking that was so bad, the hubby took us out to dinner for the rest of the week. He said I must have strained something and I needed to give it a chance to rest.

This last week, I decided I wanted to do a stir fry with some of the garden veggies and some surimi. I got out all the usual ingredients. I tossed them together using a formula that had worked before. Everything should have been fine – but it wasn’t.

We sat down to eat and Annie, the perpetually hungry teen, started shoving the food in her face and said “murphe murphsy murfh.” I took that to mean everything was great. Tony sat down and took a bite. The strangest look came over his face. He took another bite. Then he kinda shoved it around the plate like a five year old who was hoping the dog would come by to eat all his veggies. A couple minutes later, Annie went to get more milk and Tony looked at me and said, “This sucks. I can’t eat it.” Ah, my wonderful tactful hubby!

Thing is, I had to agree. The food wasn’t right. It was too – something or not enough of something else. I cannot describe to you what was wrong with it, but it tasted so odd that it was unpleasant to eat. Annie, on the other hand, kept on eating after pouring a huge dollop of sriracha sauce on it. Tony and I didn’t let out a peep. If she could eat it – more power to her!

About 20 minutes later I discovered we were almost out of milk and Tony graciously offered to drive me to the store. White Castles never tasted so good…


The Spice is Right IV: A Chili Summer

So as I am battling the monster zucchini into submission, Tate comes up and says, “Do we have any hot peppers?” I look up and say, “Tate, we have eleven pepper plants – what do you think?”

Being chili heads, Tate and I have more pepper plants that anything else in our garden. When we were planning a garden, the train of thought was – ok…what other veggies will go with habanero peppers? I even planted thyme so that I was prepared for jerked pork, that famous Caribbean scorcher.

Well, the scotch bonnet peppers are not quite ready yet – but I do have tons of Thai Basil and lots of “Thai” peppers and jalapenos – so Tate suggested Holy Basil Chicken. I hemmed and hawed. And then I hawed and hemmed. I had never eaten Holy Basil Chicken, much less cooked it before. I told him I would think about it. Then I got home and started reading Barbara’s blog. And what was it talking about? Chilies. And what trinity of flavors did she extol the virtues of? Thai Basil, Chilies and Lime. Dammit. It was a sign. I had to kill Tate…no…no…I had to make the Holy Basil chicken. No other choice. Fate had won. I hate it when that happens.

Scouring the internet, I researched recipes. Some were from Thailand, some were from Martha and some were just flotsam on the internet. I ended up taking the Thai recipe and modifying it so that I ended up with a recipe that used pantry items that I already had on hand. As I cooked up some jasmine rice to go with dinner, I tried to pretend I was sweating in the sweltering heat of Thailand and not in my tiny Ohio kitchen.

The chicken wasn’t just tasty – it was freaking awesome. No kidding. I saw the hubby licking his bowl and asking for seconds. He was too late. Our daughter had already snuck into the kitchen and devoured what was left.

The family has already extracted the promise that we will have it again for dinner next week. I think I will try it with fresh ground pork instead of chicken. So maybe Fate was on my side for once…hmmmm…time to buy that lottery ticket I guess…

Rosie’s Ohio Valley Holy Basil Chicken

2-3 Tbs. peanut oil for stir-frying
10-12 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced onion
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped
6 Thai chilies and 6 jalapeño peppers, sliced into thin slivers
Juice of one small lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon. fish sauce
1 cup fresh Thai basil
Dash of ground pepper

Prepare the ingredients as instructed. Leave the fresh basil leaves whole.

Heat a wok until its surface is smoking hot. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok surface. Wait a few seconds for the oil to heat, and then stir in the garlic, followed a few seconds later with the onion. Stir another 15 to 20 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until most of the chicken has changed color on the outside and is no longer pink.

Toss in the chilies. Sprinkle soy sauce over the mixture and stir-fry for another 15 to 20 seconds. Season to taste with fish sauce, then stir in the fresh basil. Toss well. Stir-fry another 1/2 to 1 minute, or until the basil is wilted and the chicken cooked through. Sprinkle with pepper and lime juice to taste.


Arghhhhhhhh!!!! We're being invaded!

When you first plant your garden, all the plants that come up look so innocent and cute, their little leaves poking their way though the newly tilled soil. You water, you weed , you fertilize – and then you notice – what the hell is that?

Here is my zucchini. I had no idea it was going to get this big! Tate is scared that it will start crying “Feed me Seymour!” and come through the window for him one night. Now I know why my dad never grew the damn things. He was afraid they would eat the neighborhood pets.

I also have a new garden neighbor. I have not seen him, but here is his new home under the shed. Note that he has put out his garbage for collection. Tate claims it is a ground hog. I say it is a wayward zucchini bent on world conquest. Either way, I am keeping my eye peeled.

I have also been picking green beans. Lots and lots of green beans. Damn tasty. Tony is the official bean snapper. A good hubby knows his place. He also peels potatoes and apples. If you do not have your own well trained hubby, I could rent him out for a reasonable rate. However, you must not under any circumstances allow him to watch ESPN, feed him hot dogs or nachos, or let him drink caffeine after midnight. Bad, bad, bad.

And lastly: My favorite veggie dish this week!

French Potato Salad with Dijon and Herbs

There is no picture. It was eaten far too fast to pose for the paparazzi. I added some green beans that I cooked with the potatoes. I will be making this again. Definitely. Maybe next time I can fend off the wolves long enough for a picture.


More Eatin' on the Road

As far as I know, there are no Cuban restaurants in Columbus. (The last Cuban I saw in Columbus was Ricky Ricardo.) I may be wrong. I hope not. There are days I would gladly slit someone’s throat for a Cuban sandwich.

What does this have to do with Las Vegas - a location that is 2157 miles away from Cuba? A couple of years ago, I saw someone eating a Cuban sandwich on TV. I told my hubby I really, really wanted to try one..someday we would have to head down to Florida and hit the eateries down there. The next week we left for Vegas along with our daughter. Upon arrival, Annie came down with a bad stomach flu and I was confined to the hotel taking care of her… (Don’t get all cranky…Tony was filming an instructional video! It was a working vacation.) After a long day of filming, Tony came back with a white bag…I peeked inside..and it was a Cuban Sandwich! In Vegas!! It was great! I loved it!

This time when we got to Vegas, I forbid anyone getting ill. I was not going to miss out on eating at Cuba Café. Once again, the restaurant was located in a small strip mall, tastefully decorated in faux-adobe on the outside. Inside, however, was a small space brightly decorated with pictures and craft from Cuba.

We were meeting several friends there for lunch, and I don’t think the staff was quite prepared for a party of eight at one in the afternoon. It took some time to get our drinks and the lone waitress looked extremely stressed. The menu was fairly simple. I chose to get Ropa Veija. The meat was tender without being stringy, and the peppers and onions stood out in the dish without being overpowering. It was served with a dish called Moors and Christians which was black beans and white rice. I know that I need to learn to make this dish at home.

Tony and Annie had Camarones Enchilado. The dish came with four u-20 shrimp covered in a rich tomato sauce. It was supposed to be spicy, but even Annie said it was very mild. While it was good, they both questioned the $18.00 cost for the plate of food they received.

Jay, one of the magic guys from Vegas, was sitting next to me and ordered Arroz Con Mariscos. It looked great and he said he enjoyed it.

I finished up with a flan which was good but not the best I have eaten. We ordered a couple of Cuban sandwiches to go. They were still great, but I don’t think that I would go back for just the food. It was good, but not good enough to justify the prices. I know, I know, Vegas is a long way from the ocean and everything has to be shipped in, but I am essentially a skinflint when it comes to eating in restaurants. If I know that I could buy the ingredients for a fraction of the cost and make it at home, I have to ask myself is the cost of eating out really worth it. Of course this was on vacation, but I felt that my money would have been better spent elsewhere.

The last meal of the vacation was pizza. “OMG!” I heard you scream. “You are in Vegas and you are eating pizza!” This was not just any pizza, it was Metro Pizza. We stopped in at about 2 pm on a Thursday afternoon and the place was packed. We were hanging out with a few magicians who had stayed over from the convention and wanted something casual that would suite everyone’s tastes. So, pizza it was!

First we ordered the anti-pasta platter. I got up to go the restroom and it came while I was gone. This is all that was left when I got back. Ravenous wild beasts! I am gonna learn to hold it until I get my share next time. What was left was great and I stole a couple bites of the fresh mozzarella off of Tony’s plate.

When you look at the menu, Metro serves all kinds of pizza: stuffed Chicago style, New York style – plus they also serve a 30” pizza for parties! But the older I get the more I look for simplicity in my slice of pie so I order pizza margarita. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a very crisp dough, covered with a light smear of tomato sauce, and topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. The pie is usually fired in a wood burning oven. It is one of those dishes, when done right, is heaven. This pie was done right. I was in pizza heaven.

Tony and the gang order a large Gotham - a thick crust pizza with lots of meat and veggies. Generally, I dislike green peppers on pizza. They usually burn before the pie is done and they taste like crap. This pie was great as well – the veggies were cooked through but not burned, the crust was done to perfection.

I now have to learn how to make pizza margarita at home – time to pull out that pizza stone Tony bought me ten years ago and have another try…

Overall, we had a great time in Vegas. I can’t say all the food I ate there was great, but I survived without have to resort to pharmaceuticals. It’s the little things you appreciate as you get older I guess.