An “Italian” Evening–Two


My daughter and grandson arrived shortly after six.  First course included nuts, cheeses, crackers, blue corn chips and salsa–I know, not Italian.  For the adults, Stella Rosa Black from Italy.  For the non-adults organic apple juice.

While we snacked on the first course, we created two versions of Pasta alla Carbonara, one for my vegetarian grandson and one without much parmesan cheese for everyone else.  Traditionally, this dish requires parmesan cheese; however, my daughter is lactose intolerant so we created the other one for her.  The rest of us just topped off our dish with grated parmesan at the dinner table.

We used conchiglie from Monastero di Montebello in Italy for the pasta and for version two, pancetta cut into cubes.  For the vegetarian version we used Morning Star bacon.  Here is the basic recipe for pasta alla carbonara:

cooked pasta

bacon or ham, cut in cubes or small pieces

whipped eggs, approximately one egg for every two people

finely chopped onions sautéed in olive oil–we used one large onion for four

grated parmesan cheese–1/8 to 1/4 cup per person (you can use half parmesan and half pecorino)

Saute onions until translucent.  If you are using any bacon except pancetta, cook it first but not until too crispy.  Add the bacon and heat through.  Add the cooked pasta and the whipped egg/cheese to the onion/bacon mixture.  Continually stir until thoroughly combined and the eggs are cooked.

When to start cooking the pasta so it is cooked and ready to combine with the other ingredients depends on the type of pasta you use.

We served this with a large salad:  leaf lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, chopped red bell peppers, onions, chopped carrots,  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  We concluded the evening with three different ice cream choices for dessert.

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In case you are wondering why the Christmas tree is still there, well, Martina and I like the lights so we keep procrastinating taking it down.  I keep telling myself today it will be dismantled and then it is not.  Tonight it will come down–maybe.

 

 

 

 

Colorful Cabbage Salad


This bright salad not only looks lovely, it also packs a lot of nutrition, is easy, and can be made in advance.

1 medium head purple cabbage, finely chopped

1 cup thinly sliced baby carrots

1 cup chopped broccoli

handful of rings from leek stalk (optional)

equal amounts of olive oil, sweet chili sauce, and mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine) to fill 1/2 cup measure

Mix all the above ingredients.  Chill.

This is an easy salad to make in smaller or large quantities.  It also keeps well in the refrigerator.

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Today I will serve this with the following:  black beans with caramelized onions, Persian rice, and salmon topped with garlic, olive oil, and bebere.  There will be plenty for vegan and vegetarian guests without the salmon.

 

Trivia


This marks week one of my commitment to write for at least twenty minutes every day.  A good way to “force” myself to do this is to blog daily.  In this past week I have heard from new people and received more comments than usual.  I had something already written out and then decided against posting it.  Because I am at least one hour behind on what I planned to do when I arrived home from work, this blog may be a bunch of trivia, depending on what you consider trivia.

I had not planned on cleaning my barn in preparation for fifty 100 pound bales of hay, but when they told me they would deliver Wednesday instead of Friday, it changed this evening’s plans dramatically.  I had to move the remaining hay from last November’s delivery to a different spot because I do not want “old” and “new” hay mixed.  100 pound bales do not weigh all that much less than I do so moving them is not all that easy.  Once moved, I sweep the loose hay up, lay down pallets, and sweep up everything.  I do not like hay to lay directly on the cement floor of the barn.  All that took over an hour.  Then it dawned on me that I should probably eat something.  Time mandated simplicity so I made a salad. Suddenly it reminded me of salads Gaston used to make.  Gaston lived with me for six months–a handsome exchange student from Argentina, who rode horses, played the piano while I cooked dinner, and then when I gave the word, made beautiful salads, kaleidoscopes of color, orange, red, green, yellow, purple.  Tonight, in a rush, I finally managed to make a salad as beautiful as Gaston’s.  In addition to his other assets, Gaston’s name is a song for the ears and the heart:  Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo.  I love his name so much that it is the title of one of the poems in my new book of poetry, “On the Rim of Wonder”.  His counselor at school here loved it so much that she insisted on practicing it over and over and over to get it right when she announced it at graduation.

Salad eaten, once this post is complete, I must finish the baby blanket I promised today to deliver tomorrow.  More than eight years ago, I taught freshmen English.  One of my students, who has since gone to college, graduated, and now works for the school district where I work will soon be a father.  His wife, through her work as a neonatal ICU nurse, became a good friend of my daughter’s.  Their baby is due in a week or so.  I am running out of time.  I MUST finish this tonight.  Since I have to get up at 5:30 to get to work on time–I work 25 miles from where I live–it would seem that since it is now 7:49, I had better quit writing this and get to work.  Tomorrow I promise more exciting material.

Red Snapper with Chorizo and Mixed Rice


Last Sunday evening I invited three friends over for dinner.  They come to my house all the time so I decided to try something different.  Red snapper was on sale at the market so I bought one big fillet and one smaller one, thinking they would fit perfectly in the heavy cast iron fish pan I have.  I use this particular cast iron pot because I can put it on the grill in the summer and avoid  heat in the house.  In my refrigerator I also found some soyrizo–chorizo made from soy instead of pork.  Since one of the friends is Muslim, I make sure never to feed him pork–he does not want me to go to hell, he says.  Since the fish and the chorizo made for rather sizable servings, I did not expect all of it to totally disappear.  Wrong.  They ate all of it and asked for the recipe.

Approximately 1 1/2 pounds red snapper or similar firm fleshed fish

Enough soyrizo (or chorizo) to cover the fish in a thin layer sprinkled over the fish

1 onion finely chopped

1 large poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

Olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small can tomato sauce

Pour enough olive oil into a heavy pan to cover the bottom

Lay the fish in the bottom of the pan and cover with chorizo

Saute the onions and poblano pepper in olive oil until onions are translucent

Spread the onion/pepper mixture over the top of the chorizo

Stir the cinnamon into the tomato sauce

Pour the cinnamon/tomato sauce mixture over the top

Place a lid on pan and bake on the grill at medium heat.

It takes the cast iron a long time to heat up so once it was heated, I baked the dish for approximately 20 minutes or until the fish was done and everything was bubbling.

I served this with my favorite rice:  1/3 Jasmine red rice, 1/3 Jasmine white rice, combined with 1/3 black rice.  I used one half cup each, sauteed with 1 TBS. finely chopped garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large sauce pan.  Saute until the rice appears to be sticking slightly, then pour water double the total amount of rice.  Stir in 1 tsp. bouillon, cover with six paper towels and then the lid, turn down to low, and cook approximately one hour.  The red and black rice take at least twice as long to cook as white rice.

This easily serves four.  I served it with a salad:  romaine, red cabbage, dried cherries, yellow pepper, diced radishes, and feta cheese.  Bon appetit!!

Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo


Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo walks toward me after disembarking from the plane.  Although I have never met him, I know exactly who he is.  Tallish, thin body; long, handsome, light tan face; smiling, perfect teeth; arms open.  A teenage Latin Lover, bouncing on the balls of his feet, rushing to me.  Those arms wrap around and squeeze me tight.  My new son has arrived from Argentina.

Every night while I fix dinner, he sits at the brown Kanabe piano my parents gave me thirty years ago and plays and plays:  Beethoven, the theme from Twilight, Chopin…I look up from chopping onions and see the short, dark ringlets on the back of his neck and watch his gliding, long-fingered hands.  He plays until salad making time arrives.  He tells me he makes salads for his grandmother back home.  Now he makes them for us:  layers of emerald lettuce, red peppers, black olives, orange carrots, green onions, a kaleidosope of appetizing color.

Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo.  It curls around my tongue when I introduce him.  Images of tango dancers, gauchos–he is a champion rider, malbec wine–at seventeen he brought me some in his luggage, snow capped mountains where he skis, and cattle grazing on the endless grass his family owns.  We speak Spanlish at home, we laugh, we cook.  On my birthday he insists on paying for everyone.  When I tell him I did not expect that, he looks at me as if to say, “What kind of man do you think I am?”

Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo.

Note:  One of the assignments in the prose poetry class was to write about a name, real or imagined.  This one is real.  Gaston lived with me a couple of years ago and I still keep in touch with him and his family.