Monthly Archives: September 2010

Walking, Weeping, and Wine: Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 - 9/27/2010

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 – 9/27/2010

I have been partaking quite a bit lately in the three ‘Ws’: Walking, weeping, and wine. Not someone who I would normally categorize as a crier (my cousin actually confessed to me the other day that while she’s of course saddened by what I’m going through right now, it has made me less of an “ice queen”), these past few weeks I have wept. The kind of tears that you try to hold back that seem to break down the walls and come out your teeth. I have wept for many reasons (the first year of marriage is so much harder than anyone tells you, the economy sucks, I recently discovered that I think I’ve grown a pair of love handles) but most palpably, most defensibly, I have wept for my dog.

[Caveat: To those new readers of Shut Up And Cook…first of all, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Secondly, I promise I’m not usually this mopey, sappy, and long-winded. But for now…I am, so bear with me.]

To those who knew him, Lucky The Dog was a hell of a guy. I know that everyone thinks their dogs (and kids for that matter) are special and unlike any before them, but in the case of Lucky he really was. Won in a card game in Roxbury in 1999, he soon became the fixture of my husband’s life, and then mine. We lived in NY together, we traveled all over, and then in 2005 we moved to Seattle. A most dapper fellow, he could woo the biggest dog critic, with his quiet, self-assured, and utterly loving ways. When people saw a scary Pitbull walking down the street they would pick up their little dogs and scowl at us. What they didn’t know was that later that night our friend’s two year-old would be feeding him goldfish one by one, out of her tiny little palm. There was not a mean bone in Lucky’s body, but more than that, was his ability to intuit that around him. And, he was a damn champion snuggler.

These past few weeks we have watched in disbelief as his body failed him. His mind, still present, but increasingly fatigued, was still there, which was why the decision to put him to sleep was so excruciating. We agonized over whether we were doing the right thing, or not, and just when we were convinced we were, he would look at you in his entirely Lucky Dog way, as if to say, “what the hell is all this crying about??”.

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the miracle of endorphins, so as things got worse at home, as Lucky struggled more and more to climb to the stairs, or go for a ride, I found myself out walking. Walking in the rain, walking in the dark, walking with friends and family, and walking alone. I would walk, I would weep, and I would come home and open a bottle of wine. (Incidentally, I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who magically loses 5 or 10 lbs when grieving, but apparently, my genes don’t work like that. Curses.)

This past Thursday, at 3a in the morning, Lucky tried to climb the 1 foot into our bed and crashed over. An unbelievably stoic dog who could hardly stand any sort of embarrassment (think plaid fleece jackets for NY winters), he now was relegated to being carried around. After we lifted him into bed, my husband and I lay there next to each other not talking. Though no one said it, I think we both knew that the upcoming weekend would be Lucky’s last.

We made the decision that the vet should come Tuesday, and then spent the rest of the weekend in a sort of “dead man walking” induced fog; trying to be positive around Lucky, delivering Egg McMuffins to him in bed, walking, weeping, drinking wine, and trying to prepare ourselves for the unpreparable. In sitting down and trying to do a meal plan, I found that I was literally unable because I could only think of Sunday as two days before Tuesday, Wednesday as the day after…

Monday morning came and my husband emailed me at work to say that he thought it was time. Lucky wasn’t getting any better, and we owed him too much to let him suffer unnecessarily. I somehow managed to keep it together at work until 2p when I left, put on my big sunglasses, burst into tears, and began the drive home cursing every light and every bad driver that delayed me from spending one more minute with my Lucky.

I will spare you the agonizing details of our goodbye, the vet’s arrival, Lucky’s departure, and Onca’s confusion, but suffice it to say that it was peaceful. And kind. And loving. And truly awful. When it was over we loaded up into the Landcruiser, and we drove up into the mountains, to a spot that Lucky had enjoyed and loved for years. Digging a hole and bidding our sweet friend goodbye, we wished for him to come back, and made vows to get a 110 year tortoise next time as pet. We came out of the mountains as the stars were appearing, and returned home to our seemingly empty, off-balance house. Tumbling into bed with tired hearts and tired bodies, we slept.

Awaking this morning to a king size bed seemingly too large and too empty, Matt and I lay there next to each other, again silent, as though trying to summon the urge to get up and put one foot in front of the other. Just when I wondered if it would be possible, I heard that tell-tale sound…of Onca throwing up. Leaping out of bed, stubbing my tow, and dashing downstairs scantily clad I found Onca heaving up the rawhide bone (which she is not allowed to have because they make her throw up) that we had gotten for Lucky on his last day and he had uncharacteristically refused. And in that moment, because it was the only thing left I felt I could do, I laughed. And then I thanked Onca for reminding me just how much there still is in this little world of mine.

An avid proponent of the merit of comfort food, I just didn’t have it in me tonight. I did however, have a Costco size bag of artichokes (they’re surprisingly delicious and affordable there) and the fixings for the ultimate sandwich, The Reuben. Popping open a bottle of red wine, I quickly started the artichokes (which take FOREVER in my impatient opinion), assembled the reubens, and sat down alone to an appropriately sorrow filled dinner. As my mama says, “trust the process”.

Lucky's Final Resting Place
Lucky’s Final Resting Place


Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Serve when you need to feel pampered a bit, but don’t have the energy for lots of dishes or fussy prep work.

Artichokes:

  1. Rinse the artichokes well to remove any lingering dirt.
  2. Trim the stem to about 2 inches.
  3. Trim the top of the artichoke to remove any particularly prickly leaves. N.B – I’d never actually done this because I thought it seemed silly and unnecessary, but I did tonight and it actually does make eating it more pleasant.
  4. Fill a medium sized pot with about 1/3 water and set in a steamer so about 1 inch of water is just covering it.
  5. Add the prepared artichoke, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender. These artichokes took about 45, although larger ones can take up to an hour. Make sure you have enough water in the pot so that it doesn’t boil off.

Grilled Reubens:

2 slices dark rye bread of good, hearty quality

2 TB butter

1/4 lb corned beef (I prefer to make my own, but you can get it sliced at the butcher…go for Boars Head, it’s worth it)

2 slices cheese, flavor of your choosing (Swiss is traditional, but I prefer Fontina…or if you’re lactose intolerant, that weird soy crap)

1/4 cup sauerkraut, slightly drained, I like Bubbies

1-2 TB Russian or Thousands Island Dressing

1 TB mayonnaise (because yes, everything IS better with mayo)

  1. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Put one slice, butter side down, in a cast iron skillet, and add the corned beef, cheese, and Russian Dressing. Top with second slice of bread.
  2. One a medium to low flame, cook until golden brown, and cheese melted.
  3. Remove from heat, remove the top slice of bread, add the mayo and saurerkraut, return top slice, flip over (so it doesn’t get soggy, a huge reuben pet peeve) and serve.

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Filed under 15-Minute-Meals, Comfort Foods, Lactose Free, Uncategorized

Me overreact? Never. Easy Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Lucky the Dog

Lucky the Dog

I have, at rare instances in my life, been told that I’m prone to overreacting.

It began when I was three years old and was so terrified by the Wizard of Oz, that I instituted a strict moratorium on the word “witch” in our house for a number of months. The word could not even be said or I would fly into hysterics, shrieking and crying. My older brother quickly realized the power of this spoken word and would chase me around the house quietly saying “wwwwww……water! wwwwww….washing machine! wwwwwww….wish.” I found it highly traumatic.

A few years later when my friends and I were hanging out in our early tweens ( a term that did not yet even exist) I had the brilliant idea that we should all go around the room and state what we “hated” about each other. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea. Perhaps I thought it would be cathartic. The girls informed me that sometimes I made a mountain out of a molehill and that was something they didn’t care for. I immediately began adamantly defending the accusation, demanding for examples of where I’d blown things out of proportion.

So, it will come as no surprise, that the other day when I thought our older dog Lucky was dying I burst into tears, came home from work, and spent the day following him around, quietly weeping, and taking pictures and videos of him with my phone. (Note, the videos are all punctuated by a soundtrack of me sniffling, and hiccupping, so I don’t think they will be particularly comforting down the road.) When we called the vet and demanded an explanation of what could possibly be wrong that would render him so lethargic, so uncomfortable, so dying our very straightforward vet reminded us that we have a geriatric dog, who’s terminally ill, and effectively three-legged. Okay…well, besides that…I wondered.

Rest assured that Lucky made a dramatic recovery (this dog is on his 19th life), although the vet’s admonitions still ring soundly in my mind, so I’m trying to resign myself to the reality that we’re talking weeks not months here. As a result, Lucky the Dog has been deemed king of the roost. There are dog beds scattered all over the house, water bowls in every particular corner, and Lucky has been allowed to sleep in our bed, stretching out to his heart’s content. The result is sleepless nights for me, contorted in ridiculous positions so as not to disturb him, waking up each morning feeling slightly haggard and guiltily resentful. I’ve been informed this is much what having a newborn is like.

I’ve always been a firm believer that food is an excellent substitute for sleep. So the other night, I got cooking.

These braised short ribs from Food and Wine, are quite delicious, although I think they would have been better if cooked for closer to three hours versus the recommended two.  Food and Wine pairs this with egg noodles, although I personally think mashed potatoes might be better.

Cook these when life seems to be falling apart, you haven’t slept in days, and need some glimmer of a reminder of a time when you were totally on top of things.

Easy Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine
From Food & Wine , incidentally, one of my favorite cooking magazines

Easy Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Easy Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
2 cups veal or chicken stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Four 2-inch-thick, flanken-cut short ribs with bone (2 3/4 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Buttered egg noodles, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery and carrot, cover and cook over moderate heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the wine and veal stock and bring to a simmer.

    Sauteeing Vegetables

    Sauteeing Vegetables

  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, add them to the pan and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until they are well browned, about 15 minutes.

    Salt and Peppered Short Ribs

    Salt and Peppered Short Ribs

  3. Transfer the short ribs to the casserole. Partially cover and cook over moderately low heat until very tender, about 2 hours. (E.M – Two was really the bare minimum I would recommend, three would be better).
  4. Transfer the ribs to a plate and remove the bones. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off the fat. (E.M – Discard the vegetables). Return the sauce to the casserole and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 10 minutes. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve the ribs with egg noodles. (E.M – Or mashed potatoes).

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Pasta, Uncategorized

I dream of pizza: Zucchini Pizza with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade that is…

I work with a tremendously impressive group of people who I know for a fact regularly stay up thinking about how to improve the human condition. They think about how to eradicate polio, how to improve the education system in America, and how to ensure that the poor in developing countries have access to the financial services they need to get ahead. The most interesting fact about these people, is that they’re actually doing it. They actually are finding ways to get vaccines to the people who need them most, developing ways to measure teacher effectiveness, and designing mobile banking programs that are helping people put their kids through school. They actually are making a difference. Which is incredible…and very humbling.

As for me when tossing and turning late at night? I dream of pizza.

This morning, while laying awake having been woken up by both dogs who were now promptly snoring away, I couldn’t fall back asleep. At 4a I began thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. Doing a mental checklist of what was in my fridge, I came up with the perfect idea. Grilled pizza with an olive tapenade base topped with grilled zucchini, buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and homegrown basil.

This one may not save the world…but it certainly will make it more enjoyable in the meantime.

Make this when your garden is exploding with zucchini and you don’t know what to do with it. The smokiness from grilling it makes it much more complex and paired with the mozz/basil/tomato/olive combination is quite delicious.

Zucchini Pizza with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade

Serves 4. Pair with a moderate red wine such as a Moltepulciano

1 pizza dough, store-bought is fine. I like Trader Joes

6 ounces red pitted olives

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + 3 TB

1 garlic clove

Salt and Pepper

1 large zucchini (about 1 – 1.5 lbs)

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, thinly sliced

1/2 cup packed fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Tapenade -Add the olives, garlic, and lemon juice to a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil in a steady stream while pureeing the mixture, and continue until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Zucchini – Thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise, with a mandolin if you have it. You want pieces to be fairly thin. Brush with remaining 3  TB of olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini over high heat for about 5 minutes or until tender and slightly charred. Set aside.

Zucchini, Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil

Zucchini, Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil

Pizza Dough – On a floured surface, stretch out the pizza dough to about a 10-12 inch circle. If you like, you can divide the dough before spreading it and make two smaller pizzas which will render it easier to manage on the grill. Brush one side with the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the dough to the grill, oil side down, and cook over high heat with the lid closed until dough has set and is beginning to bubble. Note: You’ll want the grill quite hot when you add it so that it immediately starts puffing up versus falling through the grates. Once the first side is crisp and golden, add remaining sun-dried tomato oil to top side (the un-cooked side) and flip over. Cook 2-3 minutes, just until firm enough you can pull it off the grill.

Assembly – Spread the tapenade on the pizza (the side you cooked first). Layer with the grilled zucchini, mozzarella slices, and sun-dried tomatoes. Return to grill and cook another 5-7 minutes or until dough is completely set and cheese is bubbling. Allow to cool 3-5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh basil.

With toppings, before being returned to the grill

With toppings, before being returned to the grill

Voila

Voila

Note: You’ll see in these admittedly mediocre pix that I did fresh tomatoes the first time I tried this. They over-powered the smokiness of the zucchini, so I made it again with sun-dried which I think were much more successful.

The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

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Filed under Vegetarian

D- Seattle Summer…D- : Velvet Corn Soup with Crab and Bacon

You Call This Summer?

You Call This Summer?

For those of you who live in Seattle, I think you will agree this has been a crap summer weather-wise. Granted, we were spoiled last year with weeks on end of perfect, sunny days and cool, clear nights, but this summer with its cold, rain, wind, and gray has been the sort of thing that gives our fair city a bad rep.

I’ve done my best to ignore the weather, cheerfully trudging through the rain with Onca the Cane Corso Mastiff in tow, but with Labor Day Weekend coming to a close and the rain pattering away outside the windows, I finally gave up and did what to me signifies surrender to Fall more than anything else. I made soup.

I’ll admit it, it was very fun to get chopping onions again, hear butter sizzling in skillets, and enjoy the changing of the culinary seasons. For me, each season signifies such different styles of food, and Fall is all about hearty soups, crusty breads, indulgent veggies, and big bold red wines.

This soup, adapted from Food & Wine, is quite indulgent, even after I made some modifications to make it simpler and more week night friendly such as substituting fresh corn of the cob with the frozen variety and swapping out prosciutto for bacon. It smells delicious, and for those of you that are lactose intolerant (or married to someone who is, ahem, ahem) the eggs in this soup give it a creaminess you’d swear was provided by a bovine dependent ingredient.

Make this soup when you’ve decided to give in to the Seasons changing, but are determined to go down in style.

Velvet Corn Soup with Crab and Bacon

Serves 4. Pair with a big, bold red such as a Malbec and a side of crusty bread and butter.

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, minced

Salt

1 lb frozen corn

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1/3 cup dry white wine

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock

4 strips bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped

2 large eggs

2 scallions, thinly sliced

12 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over

Chile oil, for drizzling

In a large pot, melt the butter in the vegetable oil. Add the onions, season with salt, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the onions are softened, 5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Add the ginger and wine and cook over moderately high heat until the wine is almost evaporated, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the soup to a food processor and process to a slightly chunky puree; return to the pot. Pending on your preference you can puree this more or less.  Add the bacon, season with salt and bring to a bare simmer over low heat.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stock. Gradually add the eggs to the soup, stirring constantly, until the soup is very thick, 30 seconds. Add half of the crab meat and gently stir until all combined and to temperature.  Remove from the heat. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the scallions and remaining crab. Drizzle lightly with chile oil and serve.

Adapted from one of my all time favorite food magazines, Food & Wine: Velvet Corn Soup with Crab and Ham Recipe – Andrea Reusing | Food & Wine.

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Filed under Lactose Free, Seasonal Cooking, Soups, Uncategorized

Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Red Peppers

Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Red Peppers

Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Red Peppers

This past weekend we threw a little champagne BBQ Birthday Bash pour moi. It was a wonderful evening complete with:

  • LOTS of bubbly (thank you Esquin for your giant magnum bottles)
  • Blazing bonfire
  • Evaluation of what constitutes inappropriate violations of personal space (e.g. crotch flicking)
  • Delicious burgers
  • A healthy debate over the merit (or lack thereof) of Bob Dylan
  • A lemon cake provided by the impressive and talented Angela Clement
  • Sesame noodles with tofu and red peppers

The last dish is a family favorite that often comes out at Family Reunions on Elk Lake. For particularly fun presentation I recommend serving it in little Chinese take-out boxes with chop sticks. For you Seattle-ites you can get these quite inexpensively at Packaging Specialties.  This dish makes a lot (8-10), so is excellent for inexpensively feeding a crowd. Serve chilled with…champagne bien sur.

Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Red Peppers

1 lb Chinese wheat noodles, cooked (if you can’t find these, plain old spaghetti will work. Yaki Soba would also be good)

1/4 cup sesame seeds – toasted

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pure sesame oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

2/3 cup green onions

1/3 cup rice vinegar

3 cups pan fried tofu (chicken is also delicious in this)

1 bag fresh chopped spinach

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

Mix all ingredients except the spinach together and refrigerate for one or more hours. Add spinach just before serving.

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Filed under Cheap Eats, Entertaining, Pasta, Vegetarian