We start with oysters. Three for me, six for him. The wine list sits between us, a hefty dare that neither of us wants to take.

“Dad,” I hiss across the table. “It’s like a Bible. But of wine.” I grin and lift the thing in my hands. “Okay, maybe two Bibles.”

“It’s your Bible,” he says. “Order what you want. It’s your birthday.”

“It is so not my birthday.”

It’s quiet and proper in here but we laugh and we don’t care.

“You couldn’t help things,” he says. “Mother nature screwed us and then your gall bladder screwed us, so we’re here in April, and it’s your birthday.”

“Whatever you say. I like that. I vote for a bottle then.”

 

Time moves slow at places like this, but it’s okay.

“When’s the last time you were here?” he asks.

“God, Dad. I remember it exactly, and it’s so disappointing.”

He looks at me funny and gestures out the window at the view–as if to say, what could go wrong, a view like this?

“Anniversary dinner. He was trying to do a good thing but I was grossly pregnant with D. I got two sips of wine and heartburn from the lobster.”

We crack up and people look and again, we don’t care.

“So that’s over 15 years ago.”

“Dad, we just ordered a bottle of wine that’s more than a car payment and I buy yoga pants at SuperTarget…so yeah.”

 

“Since when do you like lamb?”

“I have no idea, but damn, it’s delicious, buddy.”

He shakes his head.

“What? It’s not like you haven’t surprised me sometimes. Remember Ireland? Salmon? Lobster? And this is Mr. Beefeater, here?”

He gives me the brown eye twinkle.

“Who would I be if I couldn’t keep you on your toes?” he says.

I cut into my beautiful, bloody plate of lamb and chew. “Backatcha, sir. I’m glad you keep me on my toes. Keep doing it.”

 

Coffee service comes and it comes with a mind-boggling tray of things to add to your cup. I add nothing, because mine is full.

We sit there and he looks out at the lights and the sky and the winding road down.

“Your mother,” he says, and he takes my hand. I squeeze back. “I could have done so much better by her.”

The thing I think is: Don’t talk bullshit.

The thing I say: Dad, I am here.

 

It is the only thing I have.

 

*continued*

 

 

{ 2 comments }

Easter is always a laid-back kind of holiday at Chez T., and that’s exactly how I like it. The Minxes are still amenable to some kind of egg hunt, but they’ve grown well past the stage when we needed Seven Kinds of Egg Hunts on Easter Sunday. When Minxes were small, they were all about the egg hunt, all day long. It was cute, but by the end of the day? Over it. How many eggs can you hide in a microwave or a treehouse or–thinking you are sly–in a sweaty gym sneaker?

We are heathens, so we don’t go to church, but I think the universe punk’d us on that one, since the biggest church that was ever churched ended up being built right in our back yard. It is a funny, taunting reminder of our disbelief. It is massive, it is always busy and it is right there. It’s okay, though. As I get older, I think that whatever you need to get you through hard days isn’t a bad thing. And who doesn’t have those bad days? Who would begrudge people relief from pain?

Another Easter relief is that the girls are not super into candy, anymore, either. The past few years, we’ve decided to get them a nice, rather small variety of really quality chocolates–the kind almost too pretty to eat, but of course, what’s the fun in that? Best thing about the high-end chocolates is, you can savor and eat one and feel content to leave the rest for later. Well, maybe you eat two. But hey, it’s Easter.

The Minxes were extra lucky this year, because my Daddy-o decided to spoil them with a little pre-Easter gift box from Fannie May chocolates. That sly rascal! He spoils us rotten, but we love it. Let’s just say that in the days leading up to Easter, there were some bunny ears being munched on, with relish.

Luckily, the weather has been nothing short of glorious here in the Rocky Mountains, so there’s been lots of swinging in the back yard (headphones firmly attached to skulls) and trampoline jumping and dog walking to offset the extra sugar.

I’ve been busy in the kitchen, although our Easter menu is also fairly low-maintenance. Miss D. demanded her Honeybaked Ham again this year, so the centerpiece of Easter lunch was taken care of with a click of a button. I love that!

 

                                                            ^^ Somebody else loves Easter ham!

 

Daddy-o put in a request for a white-trash family favorite, creamed potatoes, as a side dish. I only make those suckers for very special people and he definitely qualifies. He qualifies so much that I spent lots of time peeling extra potatoes, so I could send him home with a care package.

Dessert is, of course, chocolate. Which I don’t have to make.

The rest of the meal was a little harder to nail down for me this year. I wanted some lighter dishes on the table, since sugar-glazed ham and potatoes with cream sauce aren’t exactly the epitome of fresh, springtime fare.

I wanted a vegetable side dish that wasn’t strictly a salad, and wasn’t wintery like roasted root vegetables. I wanted something interesting and bright and full of different colors. Asparagus came to mind, of course, but just plain old asparagus isn’t very thrilling.

Then I came across this recipe. Well, to be honest, I was perusing my local natural foods market, looking for a bolt of inspiration, and I saw a picture of this dish on the cover of Fine Cooking magazine. It was a stunner, looks-wise. I picked up the magazine, flipped to the recipe and…almost set it aside.

It featured fresh baby artichokes, which not only can I never find in my neck of the woods, I hate preparing artichokes. Artichokes are a pain in the ass. All of that trimming and snipping with shears and digging out the choke. It’s not for me. I mean, who ever even saw an artichoke to begin with and thought, “I bet I could find a way to eat that prickly, bulbous thing?”

So yes, I almost put the magazine down. But then, I reasoned, why couldn’t I just use the jarred artichokes instead (the ones not in marinade)? If the other vegetables were fresh, what’s one little cheat? I did a quick perusal of the market for the other ingredients. Slender carrots in jewel-toned hues? Check. Snap peas? Check. Plump, non-wizened asparagus? Check.

Decided.

I did balk at the use of dill in the recipe because I am just not a fan. This is downright odd, given my adoration of dill pickles, but I just don’t like fresh dill. It overpowers everything. I decided on fresh basil, but tarragon would be downright brilliant here, too.

All I had to do was add a bread basket and a nice cheese board to the table and BOOM! Easter lunch done.

                                                                                                ^^Look how pretty I am!

 

Doesn’t that just shout, “Spring is here, folks!”

It also was so good that I almost forgot the presence of potatoes in cream sauce at the table. Almost. Balance in everything. Balance in everything.

Even with balance in mind, those creamed potatoes sent me into post-gall bladder shock in the middle of the night. Guess this girl still has a ways to go at figuring out the whole “appropriate diet” thing.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter, Readers. We had a lovely day, albeit a bittersweet one without Mama at the table. And even more shocking for us, we realized that this Easter is the last holiday we’re celebrating this year that’s a “first.” The first Mother’s Day, the first June 24 (her birthday), the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas without her–those are now past. And now Easter is past, to bring this circle to a close.

Well, of course it’s not closed, because it never is like that with missing someone, is it? There’s always that longing, that feeling like something’s missing, and that empty spot at the table. I tell myself, at least we’re done with firsts? In all honesty, I don’t know how I feel about that. In all honesty, there’s so much hanging there I’ve yet to deal with. So much that I think I haven’t dealt with it at all. I cried at first, a bit. Not a lot, and since, I haven’t cried much. I don’t dream about her. I definitely know I avoid cooking things that remind me of her, which I really, really wanted to do and ended up not having the stomach for. I didn’t want to clean out her closets this fall so I snatched a few pair of pajamas and a favorite pair of jeans and left it at that. And then I wore those jeans every day for four months.

Is that how we miss someone? We wear their damn jeans, the ones that (disturbingly) fit you like a glove; the ones you sometimes sleep in because you can’t bear to take them off? The jeans that now have holes starting to fray at the knees, you have worn them so much?

I guess I don’t have to decide anything about that, either. What’s the point in deciding? You just go on.

 

Spring Vegetables with Garlic Herb Sauce

serves 6 as a side dish

slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

 

8 oz. fresh spring baby carrots, (in assorted colors, if possible) sliced in half lengthwise and then again on the diagonal

8 oz. snap peas, strings taken off

1 pound medium asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 (14-ounce) can artichokes packed in water, drained and halved

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill or tarragon, chopped

Kosher salt and pepper

1/2 cup roasted red peppers or peppadew peppers, sliced

1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

lemon wedges, to serve

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare another large pot of water filled with ice (an ice bath).

Blanch the carrots until just tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to ice bath.

Blanch the snap peas and asparagus for 1-2 minutes; transfer to ice bath.

Drain the ice bath and pick out any remaining ice cubes. Pat vegetables dry with a paper towel.

 

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter and oil together. Add the garlic and cook until just golden, about a minute. Add the dill or tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add the artichokes and the blanched vegetables and toss to coat and warm through. Add the capers.

Transfer vegetables to large platter, sprinkle with feta and serve with lemon wedges.

{ 1 comment }

Did anyone else grow up with a mother who firmly believed that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Mama was definitely a believer, which suited me just fine since I always woke up in the morning with the appetite of a a linebacker. To this day, I wake up with a growling stomach and don’t feel right until I get some kind of fuel in my body (the kind that’s more substantial than coffee).

My sister was the opposite. She couldn’t tolerate the idea of food first thing in the morning and my mother would fuss at her until she at least deigned to eat a slice of toast.

Me? I’d be munching away on anything I could get my hands on, although I was particularly partial to leftovers from the night before, particularly if it was cold spaghetti.

“That’s so disgusting,” my sister would hiss across the table, nose wrinkled in distaste. Hmph. Everyone to his own, I say.

The only things I never really liked to eat for breakfast were, strangely, two quite popular breakfast foods: cereal and eggs.

Cereal just wasn’t substantial enough for my morning meal–I’d gladly eat a bowl of cereal after school or before heading to bed at night, but it didn’t cut it for me when the sun first came up.

Eggs just turned my stomach in the early hours, which I realize is strange–a girl who can slurp cold spaghetti or leftover curry in the morning really has no business turning up her nose at an egg, does she?

Well, I turned my nose up and it remains turned to this day. I just can’t do eggs in the a.m. It’s the smell that gets me, for some reason.

Alas, everyone else in my family, including the dog, adores a morning egg, so I still have to whip up “the essence of unrealized chickens” and suffer the smell of them every. single. day. It’s lucky that family of mine’s so cute, I tell ya.

Once the morning drifts by, however, I’m perfectly amenable to an egg. When I was a single working girl, I’d tuck into an omelet for dinner at least once or twice a week. It’s easy, it’s quick, and you can sneak almost any kind of leftover produce or knobs of errant cheese into an omelet. I like that.

Now that I’m at home (alone with piles of laundry and two needy pets) most of the day, I’m most apt to eat an egg at the lunch hour.

Because I’m so avant-garde, and hip to shit, and down with the times, I usually put my egg in a bowl with some grains and vegetables that I’ve cooked in mass quantities early in the week. Then I add this absolutely freaking genius 6-minute egg and some Greek yogurt and of course, some avocado and seeds. You know…I’m eating the whole grain/protein/veggie bowl that everyone in New York and LA has been sucking down for about 3-4 years now.

But I’m doing it now! And it’s awesome!

So here’s the thing about these grain/veggie/protein bowls. They really are a perfect solution to your lunchtime quandary, but you have to be organized. I mean, unless you want to spend time every single day cooking off whole grains and vegetables and I’m going to take a wild gander that you don’t want to do that. I know I don’t.

So here’s what I do. Over the weekend, I cook off a bucketload of some kind of whole grain. Often it’s farro, but sometimes it’s something exotic like black rice and sometimes it’s something as pedestrian as barley. It’s never quinoa, though, because quinoa sucks. It just does.

I also buy and cook off a donkeyload of vegetables (a real donkeyload if I’m cooking leafy greens like spinach or Swiss chard, because those suckers shrink up faster than a Hot Topic shirt in the clothes dryer). My current favorite for my lunchtime nosh is a mixture of sweet onion, garlic, Swiss chard and mushrooms, cooked off in some coconut oil and seasoned with liquid smoke and a dash of soy sauce and chile flakes. If I have cherry tomatoes loitering around, I’ll throw those in, too.

Yes, it’s a pain in the keister to do all of that weekend prep and cooking.

Yes, it’s totally gonna save your keister during the week if you just suck it up and do it.

Then, when you find yourself, mid-week, at mid-day, starving and contemplating zipping to the nearest drive-thru for some fried crime against ass and humanity, you can feel grateful and smug that your healthy, delicious bowl of virtuous eating is a mere 8-or-so minutes away.

Makes you feel so organized and adult, right?

Plus, look how pretty your stinking lunch is.

 

                                                  ^Dah-ling! You look fabulous.

 

 

It’s almost pretty enough for you to (after you lick the bowl clean), sign up for your local CSA delivery, book that caviar facial and log onto the GOOP website and plan your Christmas list for 2017.

Don’t do that.

Your nearest and dearest don’t want the gold-plated, GOOP-endorsed vaginal steamer in their Christmas stocking this December.

So don’t do that.

Well, except for the lick the bowl clean part.That part is completely safe.

 

 

Breakfast, Lunch, Anytime Bowl

serves 1

 

2/3 cup cooked grain of choice: farro, brown rice, barley, black rice, quinoa, etc.

2/3-1 cup sauteed veggies of choice: spinach, chard, kale, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin

kosher salt and pepper

dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes

1/2 medium avocado, pitted

2 tablespoons whole-milk plain Green yogurt

sprinkle of sunflower seeds or chopped nuts

1 perfect 6-minute egg, large (instructions below)

drizzle of lemon juice (optional)

 

For 6-minute perfect egg: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add a large, refrigerator-cold egg to the water. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 6 minutes.* Set a timer! When the timer goes off, transfer the egg with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water and cool for 5-6 minutes. Peel egg and cut in half.

Meanwhile, build bowl: Heat olive oil in a small skillet. Add the leftover grains, cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and hot sauce, if using. Add leftover sauteed vegetables and warm through.

Transfer grain mixture to a bowl. Top with egg and avocado. Add a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, some more salt and pepper, and a drizzle of lemon juice, if desired.

*If you live at high altitude, your egg may take 6 1/2-7 minutes of cooking time. It depends on how big your egg is and how cold it is straight out of the refrigerator. 6 to 6 1/2 minutes is usually my zone, but if you like your egg a little firmer, add a few more seconds of cooking time.

 

 

{ 2 comments }

Vietnamese Chicken Soup with Rice

March 14, 2017

A Box of Rocks

March 8, 2017