Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Epicurus Would Be So Proud

Last weekend turned out wonderful. We didn't go anywhere special or do anything spectacular--but it was a weekend of culinary and sensory delights. I felt light-hearted and rested Monday morning. It isn't often that I feel so, because I'm usually completely stressed and under-accomplished and thinking, "Here we go again."

My weekend cooking has gotten more elaborate as of late. The reason is that we are in a dinner group with four other families. (I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet! This topic could probably be a blog all on its own.) I cook on Fridays and deliver food to everyone in the group. I don't, however, cook on Mondays-Thursday. This works out well with all that I've got going on in late afternoons and early evenings. Because I'm not cooking as often, I find that my weekend meal ideas are not as boring and we try a lot more new things. It has also made the kids a lot less picky, because they have to pretty much eat whatever shows up.

So here is my weekend, complete with recipes:

Friday we went to dinner with Drs. Jamin and Tabula Rasa. We ate at P.F. Chang's. I've only been there one other time and wasn't really impressed. I think it is because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy #3 and was sick often. Asian food never sits well with me during pregnancy. Anyway, our family style dinner on Friday was wonderful--Mongolian beef, noodles, lettuce wraps, citrus chicken, spicy green beans--everything was very good. I am sure that we will go back. I'm inspired now to try and recreate their lettuce wraps. I've done this before, but I don't think I've got it quite right. I'm going to keep messing around. Plantboy was just happy that they had rice. Which "shortage" he says, by the way, cannot be a real thing. In the US we grow a lot of rice and don't import it. The only way there is a rice shortage in the US is if more of the product is being sold overseas because of the ridiculously high profit margin right now.

Saturday night, the missionaries came over. I think I've fed these two nice boys six or seven times in the last two months. We seem to be having a problem getting people to sign up lately. This. Is. So. Not. Cool. Not the feeding them thing, so much as the people not agreeing to feed them thing. Don't get me started. Anyway we had a hamburger buffet that rivaled Red Robin for its options. (See my last post for the hamburger concoction that is pretty much my new favorite.) Here is the chimichurri recipe as promised:

First of all, chimichurri is bascially a pesto with less oil. Chimichurri is an herby kind of meat rub or condiment, pesto is more of a sauce used for pasta and often contains nuts and cheese along with the herb, usually basil. My chimichurri is kind of a marriage of these two:

Mince 1 whole bunch of cilantro. Mix well (do NOT process, it is better with texture) with 2 tablespoons olive oil, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons finely chopped pine nuts, 2 tablespoons diced red pepper, 1 tablespoon each of parmesan cheese and red onion, and 1 teaspoon of basalmic vinegar. (For a slightly different flavor, leave out the flakes, cheese, red pepper and vinegar and put in a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice.) Add black pepper, salt and garlic powder to taste. Pestos typically use fresh garlic--I do not. I think uncooked garlic overpowers everything else and takes away from the herb flavor. If you love garlic, however, do what you want. At least you'll be safe from vampires.

The lettuce on our hamburgers was this gorgeous stuff from Plantboy's garden. If each of you lived closer I'd bring you over a big bag of this delightful, organic spring mix. I have no idea what we are going to do with it all. We cut it back and eat it, but it just keeps coming. I've signed up to do LOTS of salads with dinner group over the next few weeks. I love the look on my hubby's face as he eats produce that he grew. It is going to be a good summer for vegetables. Oh, and there is Swiss chard a-plenty if anyone is
interested. I wilted some down into some wheat

penne with the leftover chimichurri and it was really delicious. It tastes a little spinachy and it slightly bitter. No wonder everyone keeps telling me to serve it with salt, pepper and heaps of butter. (Heaps of butter, hah! That is such an Aussie expression. That is how everyone in Australia told me they were able to eat vegemite sandwiches . . . )

On Saturday we put in a few more garden items--tomatoes and a variety of herbs. I didn't ever report on my indoor herb garden I put in last fall because it didn't last. Our house is too dark, particularly in the winter, for anything but the housiest of house plants. Still, Plantboy reserved a beautiful spot as close as possible to the kitchen for my herbs. We also pulled out some nasty ivy and tilled up a large spot for my squash that Plantboy has finally agreed to. I guess he is afraid that if I grow squash and zucchini then I am going to make him eat it. The answer to that is--of course I will.

I also noticed that our lilacs are in bloom, which pretty much means that all is right with the universe. I once wrote a really mediocre poem called "Memories of May" that was mostly about a series of tender recollections evoked by the smell of these purple gifts straight from Heaven. They make lousy cut flowers and can really only be fully appreciated when they are in their natural habitat. Lilacs, for me, are a symbol that spring has really come and that, perhaps more importantly, that my birthday is imminent. I'm grateful that it is a Leap Year because I dodged the Mother's Day/birthday holiday bullet. It was great when I was a kid--a special day for just me and mom--but as an adult, the proximity has been a real kick in the pants. Six years ago these happy events coincided and, well, lets just say that Plantboy and I had to have a long talk about special days and the nature of gift-giving.

Sunday we broke our fast with an amazing salad like something from Chipotle or Mucho Gusto or Cafe Rio. On top of the baby greens, we put sweet pulled pork, black beans, cilantro-lime rice, corn salsa, avocado, creamy cilantro-lime dressing, chips, cheese and salsa. (Scroll down to the bottom for recipes.) Oh, and Jell-O. Hey, the kids had to eat too.

Sunday night after putting the kids to bed, I read to Plantboy while we lay in his double-wide hammock that he bought in Brazil as a missionary to give to his wife someday (which he did the night before we got married along with a copy of the Complete Works of Jane Austen). The funny sounds of karoke drifted over the fence from our Asian neighbor's party (really) and there was a pleasant scent of lilacs wafting over us. We read the last part of The Work and the Glory: Praise to the Man. Even mediocre writing shines when the subject matter is so profound. As we rocked in that luscious hammock, even the difficult events of Joseph Smith's martyrdom seemed like a part of the joy in the life I have.

It is true that American soldiers have insured our Constitutional rights and and bodily freedom, but I owe all the true beauty and goodness in my life to the courage of Joseph Smith. Other Christian religions leave far too many gaps for me to have ever come to Christ in some other way than by the religion Jospeh was directed to start. Mormonism appeals to my sense of logic, fair-play and intellect as much as to my spiritual yearning to be saved. When Joseph looked back across the river, at the intersection between freedom in the Rocky Mountains or turning back to face his accusers, he said, "If my life means so little to my friends, then I guess it means very little to me." Could there be anything more heartbreaking? What if Joseph had gone west instead that night? Did the Church survive in spite of his martyrdom, or BECAUSE of it?

In the book Prince Caspian, Lucy hesitates a long time before following Aslan, though she knows she has seen him when no one else has. When she finally follows him, she says (paraphrased), "What was I supposed to do? Leave the others?" One look from Aslan tells her that this was exactly what he had in mind. She despairs and asks him if her leaving a day or two earlier might have made a difference in the outcome of the battle. Aslan shakes his great, wise mane and tells her that we can never know what might have been. Only what will be. That is a powerful lesson. We cannot know what might have happened if Joseph lived, but we can write our own future as faithful members of the Church, never forgetting the many sacrifices that were made to make our lives possible. So, while it was a weekend of much pleasure, I did have some thoughts that gave pause to the pleasure to reflect on actual happiness.

But perhaps the most fabulous part of the weekend was that we ate on this!

(Now, read this next part in your best Bob Barker voice.) Thats right! A new dining room table. This six-chair, expandable leaf table has a beautiful light oak finished top with inlaid, laminate wood work. The contrasting wood is creamy white with a slightly antiqued finish.

If it was really the Price is Right, I would next be telling you about the matching hutch, but that will take a few more months of delivering papers. The leaf really expands it out, but I've only got the six chairs. Besides, it is already so big for the space that increasing its length would mean moving the couch. So, who is coming for dinner?

The last photo is just Scallywag with his spiky hair. I've got to take a lot of pictures of him over the next few weeks because he has THREE loose teeth. He lost two on the bottom last fall, but two of these three are the top two in the middle. My little boy is soon going to look like a big boy and there are parts of me that want to hang on as long as possible to this:


Sweet Pork
The roast I bought was called a pork sirloin roast, so it was fairly lean with a good combination of dark and light meat. It was also HUGE, but only like 1.80 a pound or something. I put it in my crockpot with half a jar of tomatillo salsa and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Set it to low for 8 hours. It will then shred easily. Warm the rest of the salsa with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and pour it down over the shredded pork. This will make a ton of meat. I fed 20 people with it.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
You need 2 1/2 parts rice (something long grain or even a little bit fancy like basmati or jasmine rice), 2 parts water, 2 parts chicken broth and 1 part lime juice for this. Saute rice in butter until it clears a little bit. Add chicken broth, water and lime juice. When the rice is cooked through, fold in chopped cilantro (to taste: I added a whole bunch to it) and salt and pepper.

Corn Salsa
This is really Plantboy's baby, so I'll just tell you what he puts in it and then you'll just have to modify everything to your taste: frozen, rinsed and drained super sweet white corn. Let it sit until kernels easily separate and warm up slightly before mixing other ingredients into it. This "recipe" bases itself on a whole bag of corn. Layer everything in the bowl and just stir a little bit at the end, you don't want to overmix. 1/2 bunch diced cilantro, 1/4 cup diced red peper, 1/4 cup diced purple onion, 1 green onion, 1/2 tsp tabasco sauce, 2 tsp vinegar, 1/2 fresh jalenpeno, no seeds (this is for the spicy option, eliminate tabasco if you do this), and 1 medium firm tomato, diced.


FoxyJ said...

You are making me feel very sad that I am not moving closer to you. That is an awesome garden!

Z. Marie said...

I left a comment on a earlier post, but it doesn't look like it showed up. ... I don't know whether you remember me, but we were in the same ward in Houston ages ago. Just came across your blog through a series of links while Web surfing. Great recipes and cute kids!
Zoe Friloux

kanaboke said...

Muchas Gracious for adding those recipes and for writing as eloquently as you do...I had to laugh when you said that the next part was to be read in our Best Bob Barker voice....I tried hard and I still sounded like a Hawaiian version of him..Bwahahahaha!!

Girly Momma said...

can i come eat at your house? that food sounds yummy! and i love the table. so cute. also like you guys reading in the hammock together. that sounds so nice and romantic and relaxing all at the same time.

Yankee Girl said...

I wish I lived near you to take advantage of your beautiful garden and your great new table (and your cooking). I'm trying your chimichurri on burgers tonight (with white Irish cheddar--couldn't find Australian) unless we get thunderstormed out (I'm BBQing). Thanks for the new recipes. Keep them coming.

Janssen said...

I am so ridiculously jealous of your garden.

What's worse is that I have a garden box that is sitting unused in my backyard.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Brazilian hammock + Jane Austen = Plantboy rocks.

Janssen said...

Thanks for your comment on my homeschooling post. I really loved what you had to say and I agree with practically all of it.

I definitely think homeschooling is only a good option if you're homeschooling for the right reasons and if your kids want to go along with it (we definitley had people in our ward growing up who did the homeschooling = freebabysitting method).

And my public school experience was fantastic - I realy had some amazing teachers and had some experiences I could not have had at home. Most of the classes I took were science and writing classes since those are more difficult to duplicate at home, I think.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

Christie said...

I genufleck in your presence! I'm trying really hard to not covet your love of cooking. (I cook because we need to eat. Kraft recipes are my new faves.) Today I'm going to enjoy the talents that others share with me. Your homemaking/cooking/writing skills are fab! Thanks for being my friend.

CaLM RAPIDS said...

I guess missionaries are taught to plan ahead. Chris brought home a 2-person poncho made of alpaca. Perfect for that expedition to the south pole. Here in Houston it doesn't get used much. I am coveting your garden. We only have pumpkins and cukes in but they are already sun-burned. My lemon tree is fabulous though-that is my garden.

Sophia Sparx said...

I love pesto! For more great pesto recipes, see http://iheartpesto.blogspot.com