Sunday, September 27, 2009

Integrity Sauce

For someone who actually likes to cook, living with a professional cook can be frustrating at times. Sure I really appreciate the fact that when The Husband says he's got dinner/breakfast/midnight snack taken care of I know it's going to be damn good. But once in a while I gotta flex my chops in the kitchen. Because while I don't have many, I worked hard for the kitchen skills I do posses. And I can fucking cook, thank you very much.

So last week I made a dinner party. I needed an excuse to have people over to the new place. And, collectively, we needed an event to bring us all together and tip back a few cocktails before the Size 8 show. I decided to challenge myself culinarily (i maybe just made that word up) and promised everyone a homemade Italian feast. I planned on making a sauce with homemade meatballs, and The Husband and I spent a day making Italian sausages to thrown in. And because when I say I'm going to do something I have, on occasion, gone a bit overboard, I busted out the Play-Doh play station looking pasta attachment that came with our KitchenAid to make my own spaghetti.

Way back when I was what we would now classify as a "tween" I stumbled on the pasta press my mom had hidden in a closet full of other stuff that all, in turns, fascinated me. But when I found that I made pasta my project of the moment. It probably didn't last longer than a weekend because it was not easy work but I am at least familiar with the process. I made the dough a few days ahead of time to test the machine and froze it for the time being. On Saturday I gave it a little extra love and started throwing small balls of dough into the machine. Once it got going it was fun singing along to Magnetic Fields songs and rolling out linguine dough.

I made the meatballs from an old, family recipe. Rolling them out and smacking them into shape to the tunes on Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted. I have to say they turned out really well.

I threw the sausages we made previously into a pot to brown.

When they were uniformly crisp and beautiful I traded them out for the meatballs and turned those until they were patched with crunchy spots of crust. After both the meats had been cooked there was all sorts of delicious debris at the bottom of the pot. I threw the herbs in on top of all that to toast and then The Husband advised deglazing the pot with red wine. So I threw a good cup of an open bottle in there and scrapped up all the lovely bits and stirred it all up.

A word about the herbs. For a week The Husband and I had been debating the merits of my planned sauce. A friend of ours who does not eat peppers or onions was joining us and I was, therefore, planning a sauce without onions. To The Husband this idea was sacrilege. How was a sauce a sauce of any merit without onions in it? And what did I mean there weren't any onions in the meatball recipe? I was determined to prove him wrong. This could be good, hell it could be delicious, without any onions. And hell no there aren't any onions in my family meatballs!

The flavor base for the sauce would come from a whole head of roasted garlic and as much basil as our floundering little plant would yield, which turned out to be quite a bit. I harvested some leaves from the oregano plant and threw put that in with a bay leaf. That was pretty much it. It was a smokey sauce with just enough sweet to temper the crushed red pepper in the sausages.

I didn't take any pictures of the pasta because by that time I had an audience of dinner guests and it was cooking faster than I could get it all in the pot. It turned out to be a pretty skimpy batch. For the first time in my life I underestimated how much of something I would need to feed people! But the noodles themselves were light and fluffy. They were without much of a texture, acting more as a blank template for the sauce than as a substantial part of the meal.

In hindsight, and as mentioned by a few of the guests, it was probably not the best idea to fill everyone with pasta no matter how light it was and then troop us all off to catch a bus and see a show. But there was coffee and dessert (monkey bread is from the devil) and more coffee. When we arrived at the theater there was a bar in the lobby so we had another drink. We were in fine spirits when we sat down to watch the show. In such fine spirits, in fact, that after the show we all decided to go out and get another drink at a familiar bar in our new neighborhood. After the first beer the day's work in the kitchen started catching up with me but I hung in for another round before we left the party peoples and made our way back to the house.

I have to say I am so excited about how that all went: the new place, the back porch, the food the company, that I'm going to have to do it again soon. Or, um, as soon as I can. Which might not be until November now that I've seen what October is going to look like but eventually at some point I'll be busting out the pasta maker again and reinterpreting the meaning of integrity with some sort of tasty, delicious sauce. Maybe next time I'll do it without the garlic.
Ha. Not likely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In The Past Week

we learned:

5:00am is just too early, even for an early riser like me.

The Chicago Avenue bus is the devil's playground and should not be counted upon as a timely method of transportation to anywhere.

Tomato sauce can have integrity, even if it doesn't have onions in it.

That we are secretly excited about fall because there will finally be new things to watch on TV. Who knows if any of it will be good but at least it will be new.

It is possible that we watch too much TV.

I REALLY need this elliptical machine to get out of my house.

Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese is the scent of my childhood.

And its sheep's milk, who knew?

There is such a thing as trying to read too many books at one time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Morning Becomes Electronic

I beat the sun up by about an hour and a half today. I am sitting here, drinking my first cup of coffee in the dim of table lamps instead of the overheads because The Husband will sleep for another two hours before his alarm clock goes off. It's really hard to get your coffee the right color when you make it in the dark.

Obviously I have interrupted something in the cats' busy schedule, Beatrice is looking at me like I am a some sort of invader. Jabber is aloof, as he has been since we moved in, but seems grateful to have me stand near him while he eats. I suspect I am running interference for him.
Beatrice is sudden very interested in me, the computer, my fingers on the keyboard...oh, no it's just that I am sitting in her chair.

The plus side to getting up this early is that I get to watch the Angel reruns turnover from series finale to series opener on TNT, like some backwards calendar page. I try to watch the news but increasingly I find very little newsworthiness to the stories they cover. (This just in: Korean woman hit by rock flung by zoo elephant!) I prefer reruns at this time of day, I can catch up on the news online later, when the world starts making more sense.

I usually spend my first few hours of the day sitting quietly, sipping coffee and eating breakfast. I don't talk much until The Husband gets up. And then sometimes I talk too much, forgetting that he hasn't been awake all that long. Occasionally the cats and I will converse or I'll make a glib comment directed at Matt Lauer but my brain is like a pile of wet timber this early in the day, it takes a lot of kindling and a few good match strikes to get it going. Trying to shake off lingering dream images and anxieties I brought home with me last night...which will just be piled on by new ones if I bring them back to work with me and eventually I will just collapse under the weight of them all. So I don't know if this morning writing thing is going to work out yet. We'll see. Let me practice thinking in sentances for a while.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lord of the (Fruit) Flies

So we moved, which you may or may not have heard. The apartment is nice enough, it has a big living room and a big kitchen. It also has a back porch and a front stoop which I haven't had since living in Queens. The windows look brand new and that will be handy come winter. I don't think we'll have to worry about putting plastic up insulation on these windows. But the bedrooms are like coffins, really big coffins but non-the-less I have had a difficult time sleeping here. Over four years of sleeping in a big, open space and now I sleep against a wall my ass practically hangs out of a window. Said window being only three feet away from our neighbors' window so yeah, I'm a little self conscious about that. Have you ever tried being self conscious in your sleep? It totally wrecks havoc on the REM cycle.

And I'm beginning to get the feeling that this apartment doesn't want us here. Nothing as dramatic as disembodied voices from the fireplace (we don't have one of those anyway) or invisible midnight marching bands but still, something is not quite right.

First of all, the day were moved in the movers were three hours late, not too big a deal if you are planning to start at noon and don't actually begin until 3pm but we were supposed to start at 5pm. They didn't get to our old place until eight. We weren't done getting stuff into this place until 11pm.

We got our stuff in without too much damage but we discovered that the bathroom sink drained really slowly. In the book of rules our landlord gave us (so not kidding, it looked like the booklet I got in the dorms at college) they said "let us know if there's something wrong, we'd rather take care of a problem while it's small then let it build up into something bigger." So, I emailed them. They sent someone over a couple of days later without ever replying to my email. But the sink was fixed so yay! Right?

Wrong. They just broke it in a different way so now the u-pipe leaked. I called to let them know and someone came back, and now we have a slow draining bathroom sink again...Which is better than a leaking sink but hundreds of thousands of homes across America have sinks that drain properly AND are leak free. Apparently this is not going to be one of those households.

Then we discovered the fruit flies.

I eat fruit, I am not ashamed to admit it. I like bananas and apples and all sorts of berries. I eat grapefruit and really like those crazy asian pear things. Most of my fruit I leave out in our fruit bowl. What? Bananas go brown in the fridge!

I don't know where fruit flies come from but one morning we woke up and discovered a swarm of them living around our sink and nestled into the stuff we store onto of the cabinets. I know they're harmless but they are GROSS and I have no desire to battle my way through them to make my morning coffee. Once we realized the cats weren't going to help we started chasing the flies around the kitchen trying to smoosh them in our hands. Deceptively hearty those little boogers. They only have a lifespan of, like, three days but they are impossible to crush! Like adamantium I tell you!

When that plan failed, my The Husband, started talking about importing spiders from the yard. Nuh-uh. No way. We've already got a daddy long legs living in one of the bedrooms and I've spied at least one other lounging webside in a corner near the kitchen ceiling. I do not need any more spiders than that living inside the house with me. As it is those two were hardly doing anything to quell the problem, what do I want with their lazy, outdoor cousins? For-get-it.

I did a little research on the ol' interwebs and discovered a page of possible home remedies. All non-lethal to other members of the household, all DIY and all sounded promising. I mean, why would the internets lie to me? So we chopped up a banana, put the pieces in a couple of deep take-out containers and sealed the tops with plastic wrap. Then I poked wee, tiny holes in the plastic wrap and we put them near the kitchen sink. OK so maybe the holes were too small because we watched those traps for hours and while the flies would land on top of the container and walk around on top of the plastic wrap they never actually went INTO the containers. Make the holes bigger he says, so I do. Then, of course the flies can get out. Fail. I poured myself a glass of wine and then poured the flies some and walked away from the kitchen.

The next morning we had a few flies, not nearly as many as we had hoped but any progress is good progress. For three days we put up with the smell of rotting banana and watched closely to make sure we were still luring them in. This morning we had two take out containers of stinky fruit and angry flies. They seem to be gone, for now, but I guess it will never be safe to leave fruit out in the summer here...? Are they hitching rides home with us from the market? Do I need to start thinking about fruit fly larvae when I eat a fruit salad? On second thought, don't answer that, I probably don't want to know.

Oh and then the fridge broke down on Saturday night. We didn't even realize it until The Husband went in for a beer and it came out warm and frothed over when he opened the bottle.

Well, maybe we put too much stuff in the freezer. Maybe we need to clear space around that compressor doohickey that makes the cold. Nope. Maybe we shifted the temperature dial when we were putting away groceries? Nope, in fact that thing doesn't move at all, perpetually set at level 4. Well, maaaaybe we accidentally left the door open, we'll close it and see what happens in an hour. Bupkiss. On Sunday morning I woke up from a dream of premature burial punctuated by a neighbor's phone call and the fridge stunk of the 1/2 gallon of milk that was going bad. Oh, and all of the fruit we moved in there to keep it safe from the (fucking) fruit flies. The irony, it was too much for me. I had a small, but meaningful, breakdown that sent The Husband scurrying towards KMart to buy a cooler, and ice, and milk. And if he had come home with a new wife I really would not have been surprised but he obviously loves me because he came home and made breakfast instead.

Do you see what I'm saying though? There's something off here and I don't know what it is. Maybe it's jinxed, or I am. Maybe I am blowing all of these little things out of proportion and I should just take a pill and relax. Or maybe, in 349 I am moving us the hell out of here.

I don't know. I guess we'll see how long it takes for the fruit flies to come back.