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Archive for June, 2008

Edgar the Salad (read: shrimp, lentil, and goat feta salad)

I’ll admit it: Naming this salad Edgar was Rob’s doing, but I like the idea of giving all my recipes dude names. My clam recipe from a few days ago? I think I’ll call it Midge.

So anyway. This was SO easy and fast, and just the salad alone was enough to fill us up — and I have (pre-dressing) leftovers for lunch!

Edgar the Salad

For shrimp:
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, de-tailed, etc.
1 tbsp olive oil (or just enough to coat)
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper

Salad:
About a handful of greens per person (I used mache; anything but arugula would be fine)
1 can lentils, rinsed and drained (the mere 20 minutes it takes to cook ‘em from scratch was more than I had tonight)
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 bell pepper (not green), roughly chopped (because that’s how I like it. You are more than welcome to slice it.)
1 tomato, quartered and sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup goat’s milk feta, crumbled (SO GOOD, and relatively low in fat according to Whole Foods Dude)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Dressing:
(Really, any standard vinaigrette would work fine. I used my old standby:)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 (small) clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil to taste — for me, less than 1 tbsp (If it’s still too tangy, I add more wine in favor of oil)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a zip-top plastic baggie, toss shrimp with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

3. Do everything else: prep veggies, drain and rinse lentils, make dressing.

4. Place shrimp in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast 6-8 minutes (just 6 for mine) until opaque.

5. Meanwhile, toss everything but the dressing into a big ol’ bowl.

6. Once cooked, let shrimp cool just a bit, then add dressing and toss with the salad. Personally, I liked this one a little warm and wilted. The feta starts to melt and ooze through the whole thing … which means you don’t need as much of it but you get it in every bite.

7. YUM!

I would totally put Edgar the Salad up against any of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. (Seriously, it only took about that long — and there wasn’t much to clean up, either.) Invite Edgar into your home. Let me know what you think!

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Littlenecks, cannellini, and chicken sausage: a lowfat match made in heaven

I had a friend over for dinner tonight. I was hoping we’d go out, but she requested my cooking — at about 3 p.m. while we were both at work. “I want something light, healthy, and delicious,” she said. Some sort of flattery followed, though I can’t remember the details because my mind was already freaking out about what to make.

“It’ll have to be something quick,” I told her. And here’s what I came up with.

Littlenecks with chicken sausage and cannellini
For two!

20 littlenecks (see below for my grit-free technique)
Olive oil, a couple times ’round the pan (real fast!)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 hot (or sweet) Italian chicken sausage (and yes, pork would be delightful)
1 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup clam juice
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste (though you probably won’t need salt)

1. Soak clams in cold water for about an hour, changing the water every twenty minutes. The grit will fall to the bottom of the bowl each time. In the meantime, prepare the rest of your ingredients.

2. When the clam water has been changed twice and everything is chopped, start cooking. In a big skillet with a cover, sweat garlic and shallot in olive oil over medium heat until shallot is almost softened — nothing should be browned.

3. Over the pan, push the sausage out of its casing (sorry, butcher) and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until just cooked through.

4. Add white wine and simmer away until reduced by about half. Toss in the beans and stir a bit — it’s good if they break up and thicken the sauce a little. (This is a good time to rinse the clams one last time!) At this point, taste for pepper and add it … but wait till the end for salt. I added a bit at this point and wished at the end that I hadn’t.

5. Place clams in skillet in an even layer. Pour clam juice over them and cover. Allow to steam until clams open — I start checking after about 7 minutes.

6. Here’s where I get anal. Remove clams as they open — it’s okay to let them get room temp because you’ll toss them in the warm sauce later. (If you leave ‘em in and they get rubbery, don’t come crying to me.) When the last couple are about to pop, throw in the parsley and stir.

7. At this point, if you see no signs of opening (in my experience, they take 15 minutes tops), they may be dead — but I always give them a fighting chance. Return the opened clams to the pan, toss to coat, and squeeze in lemon juice. Turn off the heat. Let your guest (and you, of course) start on the open ones, and then cover the pan. If there are still unopened dudes when it’s time for seconds, you could turn the heat back on and coax them if you want, but at this point I generally give up on them.

8. I served this with some crusty bread (to soak up the juice) and a simple salad. Easy — and light — weeknight supper!

I still owe my blog my jalapeno/green olive vinaigrette from last night (burrito night!), but that’ll have to wait.

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RIP, Mabel: A Cat for the Ages

My mother’s beloved cat, Mabel, was put to sleep today, thus ending a 14-year era (or something like that — we never did know how old she was) of kitty Prozac, hyperthyroidism, and a personality only a mother could love.

And she sure did love that cat, though the rest of us had trouble understanding why.

Still, there are some Mabel memories that deserve to live on — and so, with a heavy heart, I bring you …

Mabel: A Cat for the Ages
A tribute to a feline fiend, foe, and friend

So much cat from such humble roots. How nearly a decade of inbreeding could produce a mind as cunning as Mabel’s will forever remain a mystery. Mabel’s mother was born crippled, with both back legs completely useless. I suppose her owners assumed that certain, er, other things were crippled and useless as well. Where normal people might see a cat vagina, they saw instead a sterile male. So they named the poor thing Bob … and were completely dumbfounded when she became pregnant. Mabel: Born of a miracle.

Like mother, like daughter. Every little kitten wants to emulate her mother — and the same was true for Mabel, who was raised to believe that her back legs were simply not meant to be used. I remember walking into the dining room to find Mabel hanging by her front legs from the window sill, apparently missing the proper instincts to help her hoist her way up. This happened often. Adorable.

So much more to love! The weight gain only added to her charm. She’d waddle slowly down the hall (generally toward her food), her head the size of a baseball and her body the size of … oh, an oversized watermelon? A medium-sized pig? After my mother would use all her strength to drag Mabel up onto the couch each night, the cat would spread her impressive girth over the pillow, mom’s book, mom’s lap, or anything else that got in the way. It became so much a part of her delightful character that when the thyroid problem was discovered and treated a couple of years ago, it was as though a bit of Mabel died with every ounce she lost.

That wacky back leg. While Mabel did eventually learn to use her back legs somewhat efficiently (even before gravity intervened, she was never much of a jumper), old age rendered one of them permanently stiff. She began walking with a peg-legged limp that Long John Silver would’ve envied. Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum …

… or a good dose of Prozac! During a between-roommates stint living at home a few years ago, my parents took a short vacation. I didn’t have too much to do around the house — or anything at all, really, since they knew I was rarely at home. Even the mail was taken care of by the next door neighbors. My one duty, every other day, was to feed Mabel her Prozac, lest she advertise her depression as she was wont to do: by peeing relentlessly all over the house.

My mother instructed me to place each pill in a specially designed kitty pill cover, which presumably tasted like meat. Of course, Mabel saw right through it. I don’t think I convinced her to eat even one. We’d wrestle on the floor for half an hour, me trying desperately not to strangle her as I attempted to shove the damn pill down her throat. Eventually, I would give up and/or she would break free.

Re: the pill covers: “These fucking things don’t work,” I told my mother when she got home. “I know,” she said. I think she was stifling laughter. (Those two were always in cahoots.)

And, last but certainly not least …

What’s in a name? Mabel was named after my mom’s mom — my Nana — whose real name was Mary but who ended up with the nickname “Mabel” for reasons unbeknownst to the younger generations. We never could have known it at the time, but the two ended up being nothing alike. Nana was the kindest, most generous person on the planet, and the cat? Well, she sure did like to hiss, and man, she wasn’t generous with anything but her pee. Regardless, she was named after my Nana, so she deserves some respect.

In closing, it really is a somber time. Mabel was a huge part of my life — no pun intended. (Or maybe the pun wasn’t initially intended, but once I noticed it I was pretty psyched!) And whatever makes my mom sad makes me sad, too. But you’ve gotta appreciate when an animal had a good run — there was no cancer, no tragic accident. It could’ve been a lot worse. I think my mom understands that.

And just in case she doesn’t, dear god please don’t send her this post.

Rest in peace, Mabel. We’ll miss you!

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Pigeons: Nothin’ gets by you guys!! (Give or take a few months.)

Well, it happened. I suppose it was inevitable. It took about a bajillion years, but finally, the pigeons have found my feeder. They have taken over the window and the driveway below. It seems that they rule with iron beaks.

I suppose it’s a bit telling that it took the pigeons months longer to find us than all the other birds. I hope they’ll forgive me for saying so, but pigeons? Really not that bright. I know! It’s a shocker! So resourceful, so jaunty, so … iridescent … ? But dumb as rocks.

Regardless, I really enjoy pigeons. In our feeder, their stupidity is extremely entertaining. The first day they found it, I watched, mesmerized, as two of them tried to negotiate the space. A smarter dude would’ve immediately realized that it just wasn’t going to work — but these guys wouldn’t give up. It was a mess of shuffling feathers, seed flying all over the place (and ultimately onto the ground, where, conveniently, their friends were hanging out. Those were the smart ones.). Finally, they both found a niche. They sat parallel to one another, all nice and cozy … one facing in, and one facing out. The one facing out had no access to the food. The one facing in seemed to have forgotten why he was there in the first place. No eating occurred, but they sure did look cozy.

I have many reasons for loving pigeons — not the least of which is their attractive pink feets. Their bobbing heads rank #2. I also really enjoy how I can encourage them to go for walks with me on the sidewalk. (Don’t believe me? Just follow one and shuffle quietly.) Unfortunately, I’m in the minority. The term “flying rat” depresses the hell out of me. What do I get from them that the rest of the world doesn’t?

On the other hand, I don’t like dogs. So I guess the rest of the world and I are even.

In closing, I leave you with this. If you can race them, you can love them. They’re athletes, god dammit!

And have you noticed their pretty pink feets?!?!?

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Dangerous website du jour: Max and Zane

Warning: I guarantee that just about everything at Max and Zane is 100% frivolous and you absolutely do not need any of it.

I, however, need this, and this, and this, and especially this — made from a recycled Scrabble tile.

Obviously this goes without saying, but internet shopping is the devil. I used to at least have to take a long lunch break and go for a walk to be financially irresponsible during working hours — yes, the very same hours that earn me the money I irresponsibly spend! Now, I can do it between meetings … between emails … or between scintillating paragraphs about the world’s best harbors. (Not that I’m doing that now. Oh, no. I’m, um, on lunch.)

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Important Update

I have a confession to make.

Yesterday, I made an earth-shattering discovery of monumental proportions. And while I deserve credit for reporting the news in a timely manner, I omitted a crucial piece of information.

Of course, I am speaking of my gray eyebrow hair. And I neglected to mention this: Although I made this discovery with tweezers in hand, poised and ready for action, I did not pluck it out.

I confess this not because I feel I’ve been dishonest — what I do and do not do with my eyebrow hairs is generally nobody’s business but my own. (Unless I start braiding them. In that case, talk to me.) No, my reasons for sharing this with you are far more serious than a simple matter of integrity.

I have decided to keep my eyebrow hair because I want to see how long it will get. I cannot live the rest of my life wondering what might have been! And it is my sincere hope that as that gleaming white strand grows, I will still have friends by my side … in particular, when I start looking like Andy Rooney.

There. I said it. If you want to run, I understand. I promise won’t ask questions.

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My answers to totally retarded interview questions: #1 in a series

NBA SPORTS ANNOUNCER DUDE: “[Insert famous name here], you’ve always dreamed of winning an NBA championship. How does the dream compare to the reality?”

ME: Well, the dream like, didn’t actually happen. But the reality? It totally DID! Yeah, it was pretty awesome.

Boo, yeah! That’s how it is!!

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Tee hee!

I guess I picked the right game to watch. No stress necessary whatsoever on my part. Way to go, guys, doin’ all good.

To the Celtics I say: “Thanks, dudes! You have made up for every ounce of disappointment caused by the lameness of refrigerated biscuit dough.”

(These are surely the accolades they’ve always hoped for!)

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Biscuit dough and basketball (or, “Holy crap. Who am I??”)

I spent the first 3 hours of my night making Chilean empanadas. Not exactly unlike me, except for the fact that I tried it with — hold the laughter, please — refrigerated biscuit dough. I totally do not recommend this, people. But I saw it in a recipe online and thought it might be a welcome option for the old folks who read the mag I write for work. Of course, now that I think about it, people in our demographic have more than enough time on their hands to make their own dough. So back to the drawing board with that one. The designer is totally going to kill me. (On the upside, the filling was a knockout. I’ll probably post it eventually.)

ANYWAY, now that I’m done with my cop-out recipe, I’m sitting on the couch. Again, absolutely not unlike me, except for the fact that I’m watching — wait for it! — basketball. Yes, there’s a bit of Boston pride in me, I suppose … and even to my completely athletically-challenged eyes, what I caught of the second quarter was pretty damn awesome. So watching basketball it is.

Of course, before the Celtics win or lose, I’m sure I’ll be fast asleep on the couch, no matter how exciting the game may be. When that happens, I’ll be back to my old self — this is merely a temporary transformation. I’ll find out who won on Boston.com in the morning.

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To my eyebrows: don’t think I won’t dye you if (or when?) the time comes

In a haphazard attempt at plucking this morning, I discovered what I thought was a wee piece of lint — or a dog hair, perhaps? — on one eyebrow. But when I tried to brush it away, it didn’t budge.

Yes, friends, I now have a GRAY HAIR in my left eyebrow. Because years of blond highlights have left me blissfully unaware of what’s going on atop my head, the gods of aging have apparently decided to attack my face.

This discovery comes on the heels of some potentially distressing news on the work front. Coincidence? I hope so … because if not, there are probably many more on the way. In this event, I’d appreciate it if my two recurring chin hairs could be next, please. I’d imagine they’d be much less noticeable that way.

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