Archive | March, 2011

New Old Things

30 Mar

I’m finding that as I age, so too do my tastes in things. I find it relaxing to peruse antique shops in nearby neighborhoods, looking for things I don’t really need, but can still be useful, if only for their nostalgic appeal.

Take these, for instance:

I found them sitting up high on a shelf in a little antique shop just across the street from where drummer boy takes his lessons. There were only three of them. Two of the yellow swans and one of the red flower. I like them for their larger capacity of juice-holding. Best of all…they cost me only $3.00 a piece!

In this same shop, I also found this:

It’s one of those map towels they used to make way back in nostalgia days. I’m going to frame it–in red lacquer–and hang it in my kitchen. I’ve not been to Quebec, but one day, we’ll make a road trip. We’ll have to take violin girl along, since she’s the only one who’s with french-speaking skills. I have a feeling my Arabic comprehension skills (barely can cobble together actual sentences on the speaking side) won’t help much there.

And, dare I say it. I found some pretty aprons, too. But, I decided that I didn’t really need more of them. At least, not right now. It’s just that, I want to have enough of them for the group of ladies I’m planning on having over for a cooking class this summer and…

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How To Eat An Onion–A Tutorial

28 Mar

Hubby decided to try his hand at making deep fried onion rings. For no particular reason. It’s how he operates in the kitchen. Which, I must say, usually turns out well for the rest of us. It’s why violin girl and I returned home this weekend to find the overly-ripened bananas gone from the fruit basket and a couple of nicely turned-out loaves of banana bread resting on the counter.

Out came his beloved ugly, bright orange Betty Crocker cookbook–circa 1970-something. They’re the best of friends.

When hubby attempts some new kitchen project, a strange, yet oddly familiar feeling comes over me. Rather than leaving the project in capable and willing hands, Kaukab’s daughter remains present–hovering over hubby’s shoulder, commenting profusely, insistently about the improper frying methods about to be perpetrated. How the oil’s level is too low, which could not be considered “deep” frying in any language. How the onions will be ruined. Then, silence.

Well, lucky for us, hubby elected to ignore my protestations (as usual) and we were rewarded with ringlets of “deep” fried onion perfection. Each enjoying them in his or her own unique way:

Sorry, Kaukab. I couldn’t help myself.

Got Bamboo?

24 Mar

Question: What does a day of friends, french, and caffeine produce?

Answer:

"Ma, look what we dragged home!"

 

Seems they found a big pile of downed bamboo, a few blocks from our home. I immediately recognized it, for few homes in our neighborhood grow the incessent and sky-piercing species. I had some bamboo in our small, urban yard when we first moved here. It took me countless hours and a few days of  back-breaking labor–actually, hubby’s back–to rid the small plot of it, although ours was not of this tall, lanky kind.

I’ve admired the bamboo every time I passed that house from where this specimen originated. It looked beautiful and grand, lining the long driveway alongside the late- nineteenth-century home. But, this particular lone bamboo looks unfortunate and out-of-place.

After countless pictures with their bamboo pal, I suggested they deposit the poor sprout along the back fence until I had time to find something hefty to cut it with. Little did I know that the top third would linger among the pesky neighbor’s ill-planted evergreens, some of which are beginning to grow tall enough to peak just above our fence’s top.

This situation might rely on a little help from Kaukab. Or, maybe I’ll just chop the bamboo into tiny sections and be done with it. Probably less trouble that way.

Chicken Little

23 Mar

Felt horrible all day, so had drummer boy make a call to hubby to request a chicken run to the local grocery. Mind you, I was in no condition to cook one.

Having felt a bit guilty for not preparing an entire meal–not that anyone fully expects me to–I dragged my poor tired self into the kitchen to make a large bowl of salad to appease Kaukab’s voice-pointing, concerning my wifely and motherly neglect.

When hubby arrived, there was only one small roasted chicken in our presence. (I had requested two.) And barbeque-less. Both requests were denied.

Apparently, there had been a run on these chicken roasters. So much so, that by the time hubby appeared, there was only one left. We had the pleasure of eating a dry, ketchup-y bird. My mind yelled Kaukab’s voice, “Serve you right!”

I turned to eat my salad.

Why A Husband Needs A Wife

21 Mar

To help him match up suitable shirts and ties while shopping for a new washer/dryer set.  May I present:

Exhibit "A"

 

Notice how the ties and shirts share several colors, while the patterns work together with mutual respect. Vastly different from hubby’s tired brown neckties he dared to thrust upon them.

Now, you may wonder, ‘What do shirts and ties have to do with food?’ Or, for that matter, with Kaukab? Perfectly good thoughts, I admit.

Well, shirts and ties have to work together in just the right way. They require just the right amounts of color, proportion, and texture; otherwise, the result is unbalanced. It’s a lot like cooking. You have to have the right balance of flavors, color, and textures for the dish to be appealing.

Kaukab, on the other hand, never cared  about her husband’s shirts and ties, old and unbalanced as they were. Formal wear wasn’t required at her table.

But, I’m Not Irish

17 Mar

Well, we all know what today is, don’t we? It’s the time to go searching for some article of green clothing, or jewelry, to make good on St. Patrick.

For me, though, this religious-turned-party-celebrating day holds a slight uneasy feeling, taking me back to my earlier elementary school days, where so many of my fellow students did, in fact, have Irish blood running through their pre-drunken veins. I, on the other hand, did not. Not even close. Mine were 100% Middle Eastern–Lebanese, to be exact. Heck, I wasn’t even Catholic. In fact, I was the Christian nemesis of Catholicism. I was an Orthodox Christian. (These days, I’m without the “Orthodox” part.)

While others, who may not have been truly Irish could pass as such, my Middle Eastern features denied me such access. The 60’s were not a time of multiculturalism acceptance. There were no banners, restaurants, or models (the human kind) to acknowledge such differences, let alone to celebrate them.

So, when I came to school wearing a small piece of Irish green, those of Irish decent glared at it…and then at me. How dare I attempt to represent. Laughing ensued, among other hurtful words. Once in college, these lines of demarcation dissolved. No one cared. It was a party free-for-all. And, I took full advantage of it. And, for years afterward.

These days, I look on St. Patrick with nary a bother. Sure, I like the idea of green. It’s close enough to usher in spring. I like looking at all the cute, green party paraphenalia and pretty, green foodstuffs. But, I’m not going to fool myself anymore in the idea of celebrating my “Irishness.” So, you all have your fun. Drink in the green river while you drink from your green beers and nosh on your green-colored foodstuffs.

I’ll be home, noshing on my naturally-green Mediterranean stuffed grape leaves. Although, Kaukab won’t approve. They’ll be coming from a can. Don’t I know it!?

Facing Facts

11 Mar

Well, the time has come to join the legions of bloggers into the strange and wonderful world of Facebook. I have, until now, been reluctant–no, adverse–to the proposition. Just didn’t seem my thing. But, bloggers like readers. Lots of them. And, I have to be truthful, here. I do, too. Is that wrong of me? Don’t answer that.

If you want to blame anyone for this abrupt and traitorous (is that a real word?) chess move to peer pressure, I have someone in mind. It’s violin girl. For she was the one to have mentioned what a swell idea it would be to put her mother on this status-infected web-o-sphere. Not the whole sphere, mind you. Just a page. A little, innocent page to share Kaukab with the world.

I hear that it’s a really nice gesture for readers to “like me” on this Facebook thing.

So, please search “My Mother’s Table” and “like” me. I really like to be liked. I’m insecure that way. (Thanks, Kaukab.)

Baguettes For Everyone!

9 Mar

Time was short (is it ever not?) and I had to come up with something to make for violin girl to take to her monthly french-speaking get-together, made up mostly of adults from various french-speaking nations who now live and work in our area. She and her fellow french-student-buddy, Rebekah, are the only two who are not french naturalized, and have been continuing their french affairs at the local college. On this occasion, Rebekah’s mom (once their high school french teacher) went along.

Both love food. They love eating it, talking about it, and looking at it–even taking photos of it. Put another way: they are just like me.

So, with little time to prepare anything labor-intensive, I made my way–enroute from yet another errand–to the nearest grocery store. Once inside I found these.

They looked a bit more anemic at the grocery, but I remedied that by placing them in a 400 degree oven, directly on the middle rack until they were nice and crispy. Because, the French like ’em crrrissspy.

Once I found these, I immediately rushed to the cheese counter. Why? Because the French love cheese. And the spreading of cheese would fit nicely within my time continuum. So I bought two of these.

A French Camembert

 

As you can see, I also thought some nicely sliced green onions and some fresh basil leaves would make for a nice addition. To add some crunch and freshness, I also brought home an English cucumber–just for the fun of it, really. Although, red radishes would be nice, too. I hear the French really like their radishes. (I already had fresh greens at home, along with some good balsamic vinegar and olive oil.)

Luckily, I managed to wisk through the checkout and arrive home in just enough time to make two lovely baguette sandwiches for violin girl to take to the party.

Here’s what I did:

Firstly, place baguettes directly on the middle rack in a 400 degree oven. Gather up all your ingredients: 2 stalks of green onions, small bunch of fresh greens (I used a red frizee, but you could use bib lettuce or other delicate greens), basil leaves (about 4 oz., picked from stems), English cucumber (1/2 -3/4, thinly sliced), good quality balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Diagonally slice the onions, and cut the greens in thirds. Keep the basil leaves whole.

Once the bread is done, remove from oven and place atop the stove to cool. Then start on your greens mixture.

Basil leaves

 

Red Frisee

 

 Into a large bowl, place green onions, basil leaves, and frizee (or another green). Drizzle balsamic vinegar on them; season with cracked black pepper and sea salt. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil until well-coated.

Then, cut baguette lengthwise, along the near top, and separate. Pick out some of the bread from the bottom piece and discard. It should still be warm. With a knife or spoon, place large dollops of the cheese along the entire bottom piece, then spread out. Place thinly-sliced cucumber atop the cheese. Like this:

Lovely French Cheese

 

And this:

Now, for the dressed greens:

I also decided to remove a little of the bread from the top slice, too, before placing atop. Because, I don’t like too much of the bread to get in the way of the fillings. You feel free to do what you want. Remember, it’s me; not Kaukab, who’s talking to you.

Here’s what the whole sandwich should look like when you’re done:

I sliced the baguettes in half, so that I could fit two in one large zip-lock bag for easy travel. (That’s a total of 4 halves, requiring two large zip-lock bags–for those of the math-adverse persuasion.)

Pretty Yummy

I sent violin girl off with these. And a long, rectangular cutting board. And a bread knife.
Let’s hope she passes security.

Almost Here

6 Mar

A Smattering Of Daffodils

Forsythia Buds About To Burst Through

Quince Buds Showing Off

These are my signs that Spring is almost here. We had snow today. But, they didn’t care. I like that in them. Adamant to uphold their promise to march in spring like few others seem inclined.
Oh, the mint and oregano will have their time, and I’ll happily use them for vinegarettes and flavoring ice teas and simple syrups.  I’ll be rewarded bouquet-fulls of rosemary from my neighbor’s garden just across the street from me, and I’ll gladly use them to season various meats to be grilled all summer long.
Soon enough, Kaukab will be calling to inquire why I haven’t planted enough tomatoes, while emphasizing the enormous yield of crops from her’s.

But, for now, I’ll be content with what I’ve got.
(For you gardeners, may I suggest reading The $64 Tomato, by William Alexander) Funny, and so relatable.

Kaukab Calling

4 Mar

Last Saturday brought me a phone call from Kaukab. It had been a few months since she last called and I wasn’t sure what had provoked this special event. The conversation took place whilst watching one of my Saturday morning British comedies.

With Kaukab, only a few topics are allowed; otherwise, the game ends in a forfeit, with Kaukab’s daughter left without an audience.

The topics allowed center around two major categories: food…and weather. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, Kaukab will throw in a consolation category, usually about her fig trees, but only if she’s feeling generous. And, she wasn’t feeling particularly generous that Saturday.

Having a phone conversation with Kaukab is a lot like throwing a boomerang. She asks a question and then immediately answers it while the receiver attempts to insert her own, never fully accomplishing a completion. If said receiver attempts to initiate a new topic, Kaukab merely denies the existence of such topic and throws another boomerang.

Such was the case Saturday. I had mentioned something about making some stuffed peppers a few days prior. Innocent enough. Kaukab’s boomerang quickly sliced through my mention of them and followed up with mention of her own pepper-making. I tried agreeing with her about the green ones being more bitter than the reds and yellows we had both cooked, but it was useless, really. She had already moved on to the weather. Cold and snowy. She asked if it had snowed our way, but I couldn’t answer in time. She had already moved on to the fig trees.

I think my peppers fared better.

Property of Kaukab's daughter

 

The secret to these Mediterranean-style peppers is the spice. Kaukab taught her daughter about the subtle influence of a mixture of spices called Arabic Spice, or Five Spice. I know that it contains cinnamon and some nutmeg, but I can’t recall the others. Just look for either of these names, though and you’ll be fine. Generally, you’ll find these at your Middle Eastern or Indian market, as well as natural or whole foods markets.

Kaukab's Secret Spices

 

I like to make my rice-meat stuffing using roughly a 60/40 rice:meat ratio. To this meat mixture of about 1lb to 1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck (I had a couple really large ones, which I cut in half, lengthwise, plus 4 average-sized peppers, so I used the larger meat amount), I used a couple tablespoons of the Arabic Spice. I also poured in about 1/4 of a large can of crushed tomatoes, garlic salt and worstchestshire. I usually add in 1/2 to 1 small finely chopped onion, but I had forgotten, and really, I think it was perfectly fine without it. So, use it; don’t use it. “It dont matter,” as Kaukab likes to say. Don’t forget to add a little black pepper, too.

I parboil the peppers in the microwave, covering them with plastic wrap to steam. Meanwhile, I make the sauce to pour over. With the remaining crushed tomatoes, I’ll add in about 1/4C worstchestshire, roughly 2 – 3 Tbl. brown sugar, wedge or two of squeezed lemon, and a sprinkle or two more of Arabic Spice. You’ll pour this all over the stuffed peppers, like this:

I pour a bit of water to the pan (about 1C) to loosen the sauce and cover the pan’s bottom to keep the pepper from drying out or burning.

Cover the pan with foil and place in a 375 degree oven for about one hour, or until the meat is browned and rice is cooked.

Don’t worry about having enough. Kaukab’s got her own peppers.

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