Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An even dozen plus four


     I shook out a half way decent salad for dinner 12. I almost never feel like cooking and this particular night I thought I would have a protein shake and toss an easy salad over to Linus for his supper. I suspected he consumed enough protein at lunch. My protein drink was good but when I went back to the kitchen for KP I polished off the remains of the salad anyway. Typical.

     I foolishly missed an opportunity to photograph a dinner Linus and I shared at a restaurant after seeing Zero Dark Thirty. The movie was great and women may yet some day rule the world! Hey it's our turn now.  Linus has really come a long way in thirty five years too. During the first three decades of  our togetherness the only movie he went out to see with me was Apocalypse Now. He is making up for lost time to my astonishment. We like the same seats too, Pat taught me to sit all the way up top, last row.  Nobody is kicking your seat behind you, plus you have lots of leg room.

      Anyway, I was goldilocksing to Carla about my failure to take a picture of the food at the restaurant and one thing led to another and she sent to me her mother Peggy's recipe for gravy. Peggy was sweet and wonderful, and never gave me a guilt trip; I loved her for that!  Peggy excelled at crosswords and understated commentary, knew and stuck to LIRR etiquette, loved her family, loved Sinatra, and loved the Yankees. I am not sure who took precedence. Carla acquiesced (actually there was no arm twisting at all) and passed on to me a small treasure, a heartwarming account of how Peggy made the gravy. Peggy learned the art in a Bronx kitchen from her Italian mother-in-law many moons ago.   With Carla's permission and in memory of Peggy and the countless cooks who stirred the gravy here is the recipe.

you do know, don't you, that the secret to the best italian gravy
is that it cooks for a looooong time, so that the flavor of everything
that's in there, be it meat, veggies, tofu balls, or 'a piece of pork
for gravy,' permeates every bite.
    peggy always made gravy with meat, so i'm stuck for a vegetarian
recipe. i guess you could just substitute any mention of meat with
your choice of vegetables. peg used cans of tomato puree and paste,
with seasonings including bay leaf (don't eat the bay leaf; it's
poisonous!), basil, oregano, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. when i
married tom we added crushed red pepper to every recipe. here's what
she'd do:
start heating a big pot (big b/c meat was coming to fill it up and we
were big eaters. also, leftovers were essential for carlie) with
can(s) of puree seasoned with the seasonings. she'd add water - equal
parts, i think, b/c of evaporation (due to lots of time simmering -
not boiling). our family recipe didn't call for cut-up onion, but you
could do that for the next step, if you like. what peggy did was, in a
frying pan,  fry meatballs in olive oil with a whole, peeled onion (by
the time it was done, the onion looked a lot like the meatballs and
meatballs were imbued with onion flavor due to a lot of moving around
getting all brown) along with chopped garlic (this is where you could
have the chopped up onion, if you prefer). of course, this was before
fried foods got such a bad rap...let's call them 'well sauteed.'
    anyway, after well sauteeing all this stuff, she would put it all
in the simmering (never boiling) pot of puree, then spoon (paste is
too thick to pour) a can of tomato paste into the frying pan to get
all the drippings, little pieces that fell off the sauteed whatevers
and anything else from the pan with gas still on low to soften the
paste. pre-teflon, this was, so if there's nothing in your pan to
salvage, just spoon a can of tomato paste into the pot, not the pan.
get all the paste from the can by pouring water into it and scraping
around. add that to pot. simmer, simmer, simmer, with an occasional
stir, stir, stir and taste, taste, taste. that's it. very simple.
right now i'm seeing chopped/sliced peppers, mushrooms, etc, instead
of meat (those are the veggies i like) ... good, i'm sure, but just
not peg's. she'd be okay with you not adding meat. she was pretty okay
with anything.
    now the manigut (manicotti) recipe, i'd have to dig up (or email
lois for). that was made from scratch -- i remember spooning stuff
like crepes onto a griddle, not filling big macaroni tubes with
cheese. interested?



      The lack of effort on my part produced a lousy Dinner # 13. For starters I should have thrown that lettuce away. Enough said.


     #14. Thank you Mark Bittman for one of my favorites, Espresso Black Bean Chili  My rendition looks like it has a lot more chopped tomatoes than Mark's original because I throw amounts out the window and throw whatever I have into the pot.  Linus loves too.



     #15. A little cheese, some tortillas, Bittman's chili, and voila, a quesadilla. We like.


     #16.  Beastless roast. Use up the veggies before Linus leaves town. Is that all there is he asks.

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