"Gimme the girl that's beautiful, without a trace of makeup of on,
Barefoot in the kitchen, singing her favorite song.
Dancing around like a fool, starring in her own little show,
Gimme the girl the rest of the world, ain't lucky enough to know."
~Joe Nichols, Gimme That Girl

...not saying that this is me,
but Nichols sure nailed it when
he wrote the barefoot in the
kitchen line!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To Autumn, With Láska...Love.

   I had a chai today.  Not just a chai tea, or a syrupy mixture squirted out of a jug, but an original foamy chai.  It was beautiful.  Perfect.  Even as Abby held the cup, while I mixed my Mum's coffee and sugar, I could smell the blended spices.  Rich cardamom clouds, subtle cinnamon, intense ginger, whimsical allspice, warm nutmeg, and biting black tea- infused throughout the creamy base of whole milk.
   There are days when I am tired, hurt, confused, or just downright lonesome and cold inside.  On those days, I turn to a teakettle.  Or a coffee pot.  Today, I was all of those things above, but I wasn't at home near a teakettle or coffee pot.  I was twenty minutes away from my culinary class, and Mum offered to get me a little something before class started.
   Warm drinks are so comforting and sympathetic.  They are hugs that reach inside of you, and warm you.  They care for chilled hands.  They fill whatever is empty, even if it's not just your tummy.  Generous friends indeed.
   Earlier this Summer, there was a violent lightning storm that raged over our peaceful little valley.  I woke up to discover that my Papa and Oldest Brother were on the roof with tarps, covering exposed sections.  I waited with my Mum, hoping and praying that the men would be alright.  After a lengthy half hour had passed, they came in, safe.  I was relieved.  But returning to sleep was impossible.  I looked at the clock.  2 am. 
   Going to the refrigerator, I pulled out the maple syrup and rice milk.  Warming the two in a small pot, I added some nutmeg and vanilla extract, then poured the steamy beige liquid into a hand-glazed mug.  Back on the couch, I sat in the dark, watching the lightning.  I thought of my friend M, who had informed me with a daring little grin that he loved thunderstorms.  His blue eyes twinkled as he tormented me with the very idea of a thunderstorm.  "Grab a book.  Enjoy it.  Thunderstorms are so stunning."  Sorry, M.  I couldn't.  But the drink was delicious...
   Winter is (forgive this heresy,) vegan eggnog, Spring is lemon balm tea, Summer is the Abbster's Shiso Lemonade, and Autumn is coming soon.
   Am I anxious for Autumn?  Oh, yes, indeed.  Ready for spiced cider, pumpkin chai, and cinnamon pear tea.  Even more so, I am ready for knitted scarves, hot butternut squash, and crackling leaves beneath my boots.  Now I know why I needed a chai today.  My soul is anticipating the arrival of Autumn, and I needed to taste a few hints.  Jste v mém srdci a mysli...you are in my heart and mind.  Přijde brzy...come soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Culinary Taxidermy?

   My Auntie gifted us some gorgeous, sleek, royal purple eggplant fruits...  Sheer glossy beauty.  We tucked them aside until something yummy could be concocted from these delicious treats.  Tonight was that time.
   On a brief, but truly relative side-note, I have been reading cookbooks, learning about proportions, flavor combinations, and compatible seasonings.  One of the most intriguing herbs to be added to meat and savory dishes was spearmint.  "Come again?" my mind politely scoffed.  Cool and invasive spearmint in salty, strong, aggressive dishes?  "Convince me."
   Long story short, Rebekah persuaded herself.  (Yep, Older Brother taught me how to speak in the third person, and Rebekah does it.  Everywhere...)  I picked some apple-green spearmint leaves, spidery parsley stems, and pungent French thyme.  Mincing all three, I threw them in with the diced onion, chopped eggplant, and shredded Monterrey jack cheese.  With a smidgen of salt, Blair-Hunney.  Lotsa cracked black pepper, though.
   Then I tucked fingerfuls of filling into the eggplant canoes that I had previously hollowed out.  That was disgusting, and necessary, and slightly curious.  Oh, and after scooping out the eggplant guts, I did brush the shells with sunflower oil, inside and out.  Fast forward, up to the point of the bursting canoes.  Sprinkled them with fiery red Hungarian paprika, I did.  Then I oven-roasted all six shells at 350 F for about twenty minutes in the itsy-bitsy toaster oven.  Carra Mama!  The cheesy carnage...  It was desperately delicious.
   You have eggplant?  Well, what are you doing just standing around?  Get into that kitchen, and cook up some stuffed eggplant.  Or a ratatouille.  Or some sliced, grilled eggplant sandwiches.  But I'd most highly and personally recommend stuffing your eggplant.  It makes you feel like a culinary taxidermist.

   Other than being a grisly individual devouring the innards of my eggplant victims, I've been wondering how many cherry tomatoes you have to eat before you learn true appreciation.  Darn.  I've eaten dozens.  Maybe I'm in the hundreds range.  Still ain't tired of the red stunners.  Sun-warmed, acidic, sweet and tangy, bursting with seeds and juice.  And the strange thing is, I get extremely queasy around red foods.  Normally.  But these garden delights haven't given me the tummy caterpillars.  Aren't they swell looking?  (The pears are from our neighbors.  In love!)