Archive | May, 2011

An Unmemorable “Memorial-Day” Conversation

30 May

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who thinks you’re someone else and you just go along, because it’s easier to do that than try to explain why you haven’t got an inkling as to what that someone is talking about?

Well, on this Memorial Day, Kaukab did not disappoint.

In no particular order:

1. “I picked a lotta parsley, was gonna make tabouli, but it too hot an I was too tired.”

2. “Boy, it hot here, it hot down dere? (no pause for a response)…It 92 degree here.”

3. “Why you come in here an break my tings?” (yelling at great-grandkids, who’ve just run in from the too hot outside)

4. “Why dey play basketball in dis hot weather? Crazy kids! Who do dat?”

5. “Yeah, he can afford it. He borrow money and pay it back each month.” (A ‘Who’s on first?’ rendition ensues.)

6. “Laura gonna be in high school next year?” (Violin girl will be a high school senior next year, but since she homeschools, Kaukab thinks it’s something different, and that her daughter will eventually come to her senses and do the ‘right tink.’)

7.”You comin’ up to Cleveland dis summer?”

Naturally, the only question she allows me time to answer.


Celebration Weekend

29 May

This weekend is important on three fronts.

1. It’s a time to celebrate those who have unselfishly given of themselves to protect our liberties.

2. It’s a time to celebrate food. Barbequed or grilled. Either way, there will be countless backyard gatherings of family and friends sharing special recipes around the picnic table.

3. And, for this mother’s table, there will be special celebration:



This mom is especially happy, because their birthday dinner requests require me only to tear open a family-size box of Stouffer’s Lasagna, remove the foil lid, and place on a baking sheet to bake for a little over an hour. Close to the lasagna’s completion, I will tear open another food package–this time, a garlic bread loaf–and place that in the oven for a few minutes. If I’m feeling especially celebratory, I’ll make a salad, but the boys don’t usually care one way or the other.

This year, I bought them a Tiramisu cake–emphasis on “bought,” which drummer boy (pictured above with far less hair) pulled out of the refrigerator this morning asking if he could open for a quick pre-church breakfast. (I’m sure he would have never considered posing that question to Kaukab. He’s smart that way.)

Of course, tomorrow morning, I will be making roasted potatoes and tabouli (yes, once again) to take to friends for Memorial Day noshing.

And, if you’re still trying to think of something quick to make for one of your weekend gatherings, here’s an idea:

Roast some potatoes on one baking sheet and on another, roast a variety of colored peppers, some whole mushrooms, and quartered onions, all doused with olive oil, garlic salt or sea salt, and cracked pepper. Feel free to sprinkle some dried rosemary, thyme, or oregano, too. Or, how about some dried red pepper flakes, just for kicks? I usually roast them at 400 degrees for about an hour. (The softer veggies, i.e., not the potatoes will take a bit less time.) Just check on them about 40min. in, to determine how much more time is needed. I’ll usually turn the heat down to around 250 degrees once they start browning and get a little wrinkled.

After they’re done, let them rest on the baking sheet, until cooled. Then, dump them all in a large bowl. Lightly toss to mix. It’s a great side to any grilled or barbequed fare.

Parsley–It’s Not Just For Garnishing

20 May

According to Kaukab, “Americanas” don’t take parsley seriously enough. They waste it on dressing up plates with foods that don’t need it and on people who don’t like it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Unlike Kaukab, I have faith in the American palate. All they need is a little patience and a really good recipe. And I’ve got just the right one–Tabouli!

Tabou-whaat?  Ta-boo-lee. A simple parsley salad, that originated in Kaukab’s homeland of Lebanon.



Now, I have to clarify something here. If I were to have taken a picture of Kaukab’s tabouli and put it next to mine, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between them. More importantly, if you were to have eaten from both, virtually no one, aside from Kaukab, could have distinguished between the two. But, because Kaukab didn’t make the tabouli you see pictured above, you would have been lead to believe that my tabouli was not the ‘official’ tabouli. In other words, “It no like mine.”

With that in mind, here’s the ‘official’ recipe. Keep in mind, that I don’t measure. Just. Like. Kaukab’s.

I used portions enough to make a large bowl to serve 8 to 10 people, who would, most likely, go for seconds.

Preparation Time: about 90 min., less if you’re using less parsley.

3 large lemons (used 1/2 to squeeze into the bulghur wheat; the other 2 1/2 to dress the salad)

6 bunches of parsley (leaves picked from stems; stems discarded)

6 to 8 palm-fuls of #1 bulghur wheat (the very finest grain size)

4 – 5 green onions, thinly sliced

5 large tomatoes, finely diced

handful of fresh mint, finely chopped, or 2 -3 Tbl. dried mint

1C or slightly more of extra virgin olive oil



Note: Before you start on the tabouli, you want to first put your bulghur wheat in a small bowl and squeeze a 1/2 lemon over it, mixing it in with your fingers. Then take the bowl to the sink, and drizzle some warm water into your hand,  making a couple of small handfuls and put into the bowl, as well. Mix around with your fingers to help separate a bit. Then, leave to soften while you work on the salad. By the time you’re done with all the chopping, and such, your bulghur wheat will be soft enough ( al dente) to add to the salad.

The Wheat When It's Ready










Now, on to the parsley.

It’s easiest to chop the parsley in the food processor. Process on pulse, giving it quick chops until you get a fairly fine chop. (I fit in 4 average-sized bunches at one time.)

Ready to be processed










A Nice Fine Chop

Dump the chopped parsley into a large bowl.  Process the remaining and put into bowl. Add in the sliced onions, tomatoes, and mint. (It’s easiest and more time efficient to chop tomatoes by first making thick slices, horizontally, then take each slice and make narrow slices vertically, then holding together, make a quarter turn, counter-clockwise, and slice vertically, again. You’ll have nicely even chopped pieces. For the mint, gather all leaves together, stacking them and then roll them, like a cigar, and folding one end over. Make fine slices across. Then make a couple of quick chops across, again.)
Once the parsley and vegetables are in the bowl, you can add in the bulghur wheat, making sure to use your fingers or a fork to separate the grains before adding in.

Lemon goodness

For the dressing, in a small bowl, squeeze the 2 1/2 lemons, discarding the seeds. If using sea salt, add in about 2 tsp. so it can help soften and dissolve slightly, otherwise sprinkle in salt or grind salt enough to taste. Pour lemon into the salad. Lightly pour in the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in black pepper (5 or 6 light sprinkles) and mix again. Taste and adjust. It should have a lemon-y flavor and just wet enough with the olive oil.
Kaukab usually serves it alongside a plateful of romaine lettuce, which you would be expected to use as a utensil. You would be instructed on proper lettuce formation and filling etiquette. But, trust me. The tabouli’s worth it. No matter who makes it.
Oh, and all that lemon squeezing will get you a free french manicure, too.

Mother’s Day, Everyday

11 May

It’s been a few days since we celebrated the mother of all holidays, and I must tell you that today, like most days, was spent doing mundane, non-news-worthy activities. Here’s the list:

1. Schooled the boys. (Did you know that the weight of all microorganisms combined far outweigh the total combined weight of all other living organisms, i.e., animals and plants? Yeah, neither did I.)

2. Made a chicken sandwich on whole wheat for lunch.

3. Schooled some more.

4. Smelled my pretty red roses hubby got me for the special holiday.

5. Took a nice, mid-day shower, and a few minutes out in the garden.

6. Finished up schooling. (Are we ever really finished, though?)

7. Taxied drummer boy across town for drum lessons.

8. Caught up on some reading, while waiting on drummer boy. (The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis. Drummer boy had already read, as part of his assigned reading, months ago. Figured, it be a good idea if I finished, too.) Mother = Role Model

9. Stopped by the International Asian Market to grab a few things for dinner–gyro meat, Indian flat bread, 3 bottles of guave juice (for the kiddies), 1 can frozen mango puree, 2 cans pre-made chick pea puree, and 2 bags frozen korean dumplings. P.S. No matter how much garlic, lemon, salt, and tahini paste you dump in the canned chick pea puree, you won’t win. Hummous must be made from scratch–Kaukab-style.

10. Hanging out with the family, watching “Under the Tuscan Sun,” making sure to skip over the one major sex scene–the one driver boy had not managed to escape previously. For me, the food is the star of the movie.

And there you have it. A mother’s day, albeit, an unusually less hectic one.

Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll be awaken to the words, “Mom, can you…?” and “Mom, where’s my…?”

Here’s to all the moms who work hard and care for their “babies.” Everyday.

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