This Is Not (Exclusively) What I’ve Been Doing

 

It's not as strong as it looks. I (hic!) promise.

 

I know it doesn’t look too good–I take an extended absence from blogging and my first post upon returning is a cocktail. But I haven’t been on a week-long bender, honest (at least not lately). I have two valid and related reasons to explain my recent disappearance: I was going out for the local roller derby league, and then I broke my wrist. Yeah, I know–you don’t have to say it.

So between the obsessive practicing of my T-stops and, now, the pain, both cooking and blogging about cooking have gotten pushed down my priority list. Luckily for y’all, I had this little number tucked away in reserve. I only hope that I’m not too late for you to make such delicious and alcoholic use of the last-of-season tomatoes.

I love bloody Marys, but sometimes they can be a little–well, thick. Gloppy, even. This lovely version solves that problem, while saving all of the flavor and essence of a good tomato-based cocktail. Tomato water is not only sophisticated and impressive, but astonishingly easy to make; in fact, “make” implies rather more active work than tomato water requires.

Tomato-Water Bloody Mary

Take a good quantity of good-quality tomatoes. Stem them and chop them roughly. Place in a colander set over a large mixing bowl, and let stand for several hours. Remove tomato pulp from colander and set aside for another use (I like to freeze this, and add it to stews, soups, chilis and tomato sauces later).  If desired, strain tomato water with a fine-mesh strainer.

In a tall glass, mix 1 oz. vodka, a few shakes Worcestershire, the juice of half a lime, a tsp. of horseradish and hot sauce or Sriracha to taste. Add tomato water and ice cubes. Stir. Garnish with green olives, pickle spears, Slim Jims, cherry tomatoes, cocktail shrimp, lime slice or all of the above. Enjoy!

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Back in the Saddle Again

My ego was recently punched in the nuts. It started with an article I wrote and published (for money, I might add–well, PayPal, but same diff) and which got some — how shall I say this? oh, gloves off, I suppose — sanctimonious, snippy, unkind and just plain wrong criticism. I made the large-marge mistake of Googling myself and found this post criticizing not just my writing, but me (again, same diff); I won’t recap the whole thing. Suffice it to say that one participant said I had no more grasp of satire than a duck.

Because, as everyone knows, ducks suck at satire. Wait, what?

Several glasses of wine later, my blood pressure’s nearly back to normal and I have almost ceased trying to think of clever retorts that have a creamy, well-reasoned center underneath a deliciously snarky shell. So I’ma get back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend, and do some preachin’ to the choir of the church of Nick.

Let’s talk about zucchini. Much loved, much maligned, far too often the subject of corny Garrison Keillor jokes (“Hahaha, we’re unemployed Lutheran English majors with too much local produce”), zucchini is nevertheless one of my favorite veg. I like to have it on hand at all times. It can be a snack (raw, with ranch), a side dish, a soup component (minestrone, anyone? Well, that will have to wait for fall), an entree (stay tuned for the Nickmas Corn and Zucchini Fritters, which I promise are forthcoming), a quick bread or a dessert (throw some frosting on them thar zucchini muffins and children under the age of 8 call ’em cupcakes. Motherhood — it’s all in the marketing).

The first batch of zucchini from either our garden, the CSA or the local market, I like to do Gram’s Way. Or, if you’re feeling continental, Zucchini ala Gram. This is the way my Grandmother made it, and probably her mom before her. I don’t remember my mom making it this way, but maybe zucchini skips a generation, like twins?

So my stove's dirty. You wanna make something of it? I've knocked a woman to the floor before, and I'd do it again.

Anyway, so easy you would think I was patronizing you if I posted an actual recipe. All you do is put a general pat/chunk/stick (your choice!) of butter in a skillet. Iffen you’re feeling health-conscious, use half butter and half EVOO or regular OO. Let it melt a bit. Throw in some sliced sweet onion. Vidalias are nice. Throw in some sliced zucchini (here I used a mixture of zucchini and yellow zucchini. You could also use yellow squash. Same diff yet again? Maybe. I don’t know, I got my info from the Mennonite veggie stand) or pattpan squash or whatever crazily shaped summer squash your CSA throws at you. Throw in a cup or so of water. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let it bubble, stew and sing in your kitchen until most of the water’s gone and the squash is soft and lovely. Pour it into a dish and fork up some summer. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Forgot to pepper after I plated. Use the Photoshop in your brain to add some flecks of black pepper, will you please? Thanks.

What recipes did you inherit from your Grandmother — or wish you had?

Palomas, For the Rest of Us

Paloma Picasso was never called an asshole. Not like you.

My new cocktail craze of late is the Paloma. It’s not unlike a margarita, only without the whole “stepped on a pop top,” parrots-and-palm frond nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach as much as the next girl (well, actually, that’s not true. I like the beach slightly less than the next girl, probably because I have a porcelain complexion which turns with alarming speed into a lobster-colored sunburn. Also I don’t really care for sand). I just like my booze a little classier.

Anyway, speaking of class, I also love this drink because when I think “Paloma,” I think “Picasso,” and when I think “Picasso,” I think about the wonderful Modern Lovers song “Pablo Picasso”.

That might be a little glimpse into the inner workings of my brain that you could’ve done without, huh? OK. On to the recipe:

Palomas

1.5 oz tequila, preferably tequila blanco

juice of half a lime

grapefruit-flavored soda

Wet rim of glass with a lime wedge and dip into a mixture of coarse salt and chili powder. Add ice to glass. Add rest of ingredients. Garnish with lime wedge. Enjoy!

Where the Magic Happens

Greetings and salutations! I thought I’d kick things off by showing y’all where I do my cooking. This is a gen-u-wine 1928 Barstow stove, which the Long-Suffering Husband either bought at an estate sale or found on the side of the street (hey, it was before I met him; I can’t clutter up my already fragmented memory with these sorts of details) and then painstakingly reconstructed.

Not only does it look purty, it actually works!

“Y’all”? “Purty”? Apparently there’s something about Depression-era appliances that makes me channel my inner Ozark housewife.

Anyway, the nifty thing about this stove is that it has no oven temperature setting; you can’t just turn it to 350°. You have to open the broiler, light the gas, and guesstimate how hot the oven will get based on the size of the flames. For the first year that I lived and cooked here, everything I baked was charred on the outside and raw on the inside. I felt like a much less successful Ma Ingalls.

That’s our little kosher-salt container on the wall above the tea kettle. Because, of course, no self-respecting self-styled 1928 Ozark housewife cooks without kosher salt. L’chaim, y’all.

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