The Daily Palate

My life in food.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"What You Got?!" Xtreme

I am a closet recluse. When I've had to be especially social, whether for work or fun, I tend to come home as quickly as I can and stay put. I try not to speak to anyone, or failing that - severely limit the number of people I talk to. I read, do chores, sing little songs, and generally spend time alone with my thoughts. It's a strong compulsion. I'm not sad or depressed, I just want to be alone; Road Warrier Syndrome writ large if you will. It's a little OCD, I'll admit.

The problem is, when you've been out of pocket for a while, there's no food in the house. Unfortunately, it's not possible to stop by the grocery store on the way home. Even when you're just a little OCD, there are RULES. For me - when the time comes to go home, that time is NOW. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. There are no grocery store errands along the way; no detour can be made from the urgent matter at hand. It's like a homing device goes off in my head and I'm a pigeon set free from its cage. The only route is the direct route.

Once home, leaving . . . well - that just doesn't seem like a very good idea now does it. I just got here. Why would I leave? Pick up the mail? It can wait. Out of milk? How inconvenient. I like cereal.

While I've had a spectacular summer filled with parties, exotic business trips, weddings, baby showers and the like - you can see that the aftermath of each one of these social soiree's required at least a bit of self-imposed exile. Inevitably, the food situation would get out of hand. I regularly ran out of almost everything. Deliveries, for those of you pondering that option, are out of the question. First, you have to call and talk to one of THE OTHERS about what you want. Make me. And after that - ONE THEM COMES TO YOUR HOUSE. Unacceptable. No. Not an option.

But never fear lads and lasses! Now is not the time for panic! As Hunter advised us, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." What Would Hunter Do? I know the answer to that question. Put the FUN back in dysfunctional! That right! It's time to play - "What You Got?!".

How 'bout those Reckless Kelly boys?! How much fun are they? That Jay Nazz is one creative guy. The next Celebrity Chef in the making, no doubt! But I've taken Jay's little game show to the next level. The Xtreme version of the game is a marathon event. The objective is to stay home for as long as possible without being driven out by hunger or boredom. My undiagnosed mental disorder is an advantage here because it will take several days for boredom to set in. Unwavering routine is a comfort in this state. That, along with my never-ending love for butter, cheese, rice, and macaroni are what make me one of the only "What You Got?" Xtreme Elites. If these supplies remain, I will stay contentedly in my home until I can contemplate OTHER interactions without so much as an eye squinch.

Here is my very favorite mac n' cheese recipe -

Large elbow macaroni
Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Cracked Pepper

Prepare the elbow macaroni (only use large, small won't work), strain quickly, and pour into a cereal bowl. Drop in 1 tablespoon of butter and cut small pieces of cheddar cheese with a paring knife right into the bowl. Stop every few seconds and stir into the macaroni. After there is a sufficient amount and dispersement of cheese, microwave for 30 seconds. Crack fresh pepper to taste. Turn on network TV (Law & Order preferably - my daughter calls this the "sex-obsessed-Republican- show"), lie on the counch, and eat every bite. Yummm.

This summer one of my Road Warrier colleagues told me that he had scrambled eggs and watermelon for dinner. How inventive. Sometimes you just have to make do. And when that time comes, you have to ask yourself "WHAT - YOU - GOT?!"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Birthday Season: Living The Dinner Party Lifestyle

I'm a lucky girl. My friends are gracious hosts and fabulous cooks. And if they aren't, they know people who are and I get to hang out with them. I love you guys!!!! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! (These are air kisses of course.)

Last week I went to four, count them four, dinner parties. At three I was lucky enough to be an invited guest. The fourth I crashed. But I loved the people. They were absolutely divine. And I knew them and they knew me so don't be so snooty about it.

These parties were all about Birthday Season. In my social set Birth Day is not quite enough. In fact, it's not nearly enough. There must be dinners and parties and presents and acknowledgements and festivities that go on and on and on. My lovely friend Wendy is still celebrating Birthday Season well over a month after the actual day. Isn't it obvious that this is the fabulous life one should aspire to lead?

The first dinner party was for a friend's boyfriend. He is an absolute delight. When I met him for the very first time he drove us to a party, took us to cocktails in advance, and paid my admission to the party boat. Let's just say he made a good impression. Another day he took my friend and I to dinner and selected an absolutely rich Zinfandel - on Fourth of July. It's exactly what I wanted, but living in Austin, Texas where it is just a bit hot in July, it's not every guy who could have figured that out. I adore him. So we had a very informal little fete on his behalf two weeks before the day. There's nothing like a quiet little kick-off to Birthday Season. Kisses to you Tyler!

The second party was for my fabulous friend LP Lee. It was a barbeque. Our marvelous sister in Lee-dom, Catba-Lee, brought a brisket barbequed by her pitboss Daddy (who is not a Lee). Our jobs were to bring the sides. Cherry Lee had a busy week and brought extraordinarily delicious chips and dips. Mr. Clem drove his lovely wife, Victoria Lee, who delivered our favorite mustard potato salad. Bo-Geek-Lee contributed the most incredible cake ever. A fondant covered vanilla cake condom replica with the words - "Our love could not be contained". Did I mention that LP is a new Daddy? Happy Birthday LP! It was a very big year. His wife Martha Lee, provided the understated, but delicious brownie chocolate cake. Oh! I had a contribution too -

Chorizo Stuffed Grilled Jalapenos (hal-uh-peen-uhs - my pronunciation a topic of endless amusement)

24 Fresh Jalapeno Peppers
1 lb fresh chorizo sausage (there are no substitutes)
8 oz Queso Fresco, white Mexican cheese or Monterey Jack shredded
8 oz cream cheese, softened

Cook chorizo without casing in hot skillet over medium fire until cooked. Drain excess grease and set aside. Combine white Mexican Cheese and softened cream cheese, and also set aside.

Slice the jalapenos in half lengthwise and with a small spoon scoop out seeds and membrane*. Again, using a small spoon, fill one half of each pepper with cheese mixture. Fill the other half of the pepper with the cooked chorizo sausage. Put the two pepper halves back together and wrap the pepper, starting at one end and wrapping around to the opposite end, with one/half of a thin slice of bacon. Secure bacon and the pepper with a toothpick. You can make ahead, cover and refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat grill to medium hot. Grill peppers, rolling on grate to evenly and thoroughly cook the bacon. Let cool slightly, remove the toothpick and serve.

*WARNING: Wear disposable gloves or your hands will burn for days. Additionally, removing the seeds and membranes will bring the heat of the peppers down significantly. I would consider it mild, but the peppers will still have a kick. Leaving seeds and membranes in half the pepper will give you a dish that will bite back - its hot. If you leave the seeds and membrances in both sides - only the crazy Pepper Bellys will touch it as they consider eating fresh jalapenos a competitive sport.

Next is an exquisitely elegant Friday night affair in honor of the lovely Wendy. The place settings were beautiful. And how often does someone take the time to create a seating chart and hand craft the place cards. Nice. The cheeses and appetizers were divine. We opened with a really wonderful Portuguese wine - Vinho Verde. Folks - if you like the sparkling, this is an excellent dog days of summer selection. Light and crisp with tight little bubbles - positively effervescent.

We had a marvelous shrimp pasta salad with a pasta choice I've never had before - orecchiette (little ears). Loved it! Finished with chocolate pot de creme and fresh whipped cream flavored with amaretto. Yummy!

I crashed the Saturday night party. The opening for Leo birthdays. I believe that Stew and Leo are moving right into Birthday Season. They had eaten shrimp skewers and I helped myself to one. Since I had burst the hook and eye right off my skirt while on my way to a neice's wedding earlier in the day, I decided to skip the homemade ice cream with fresh fruit and chocolate. I can't imagine why my waistline is growing. If you don't burst out laughing here its clear you haven't read my earlier blog entries. I think we all understand why - but I don't have a single regret. I've loved every bite of every single over-the-top crazy dish I've eaten all summer.

Fluffy is good!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Road Rations

There's nothing more fun than a summer road trip. And one of the things I look forward to most is the food. While many enjoy stopping at roadside eateries, I'm far too impatient a traveler to stop, go inside, sit down, order off a menu, and wait for my food with the minutes tick, tick, ticking by. I like to keep moving. For me, its all about road rations found at the filling station.

I have fond memories of the the long drives with my Dad and Stepmother to visit them on the weekends as a child. There were frequent pit stops where my sisters and I were allowed to choose drinks and snacks for the road. In those days I was very partial to pineapple fried pies and strawberry cream soda. I also loved the beef jerky with Coca-Cola in the 10 oz bottles. Grape Nehi - also yummy. And Orange Crush - oh baby - oh baby - oh baby. And those little pink waffer cookies with the sugary icing in between - still my very favorite cookie ever.

Recently I found myself on a business trip a few hours from home and decided not to take the interstate on the way back. Instead, I took the scenic route through the hill country. I stopped at a promising looking filling station likely to have clean restrooms. Before I set out, it had been my plan to grab a barbeque sandwich at one of those interesting little roadside joints I've never stopped in. I should have known better, there's a reason I never do that. But this time it was going to be different.

That is until I passed a large display of beef jerky on the way to the restroom. I knew it was all over, but tried to talk myself out of it. "I could just have a little snack", I told myself. "I could still stop at one of those barbeque joints. It couldn't hurt to look at the chips." I love the chips.

Usually, when I'm at home and behaving like a sane adult, I stay away from the snack food. At my house, snack food is yogurt, Cliff bars, fruit, and triscuit with cottage cheese. I also love those little grape tomatos which I eat by the handfull - but this is all for another day. What I'm saying is - I've started down a very slippery dietary slope and I know it, but can I stop myself?

Cheetos! I love Cheetos! Now which will it be - "Crunchy" or "Flaming Hot". While I love the Flaming Hot, today I feel nostalgic. Crunchy it is. Next, beef jerky. I choose "Hot" with pepper flakes that can be seen all over the outsides. Mmmmmm. O.K. - its clear I'm buying dinner here. Shouldn't there be a tiny little dessert.

They have fried pies! I choose peach today. I am a grown-up afterall. My tastes are more sophisticated. Didn't I buy the "hot" beef jerky? I never would have done that as child. Also, in an act of supreme adult-like constraint I chose water instead of strawberry cream soda. See how grown-up I am?

My dinner this day -

Beef Jerky - Hot
Cheetos - Crunchy
Fried Pie - Peach
Water - Aquafina