June 19, 2015

Baba Ganoush

Smoky and Rich Eggplant 
I've always been drawn to mysterious tales that hook me and pull me deep into a magical realm. One of my all time favorite reads is The Arabian Nights, a collection of tales culled from various cultures and dating back over 1,000 years. The stories are framed by the tale of the beautiful young virgin, Scheherazade who against her will has been married off to the moody and unpredictable King Shahryar. Scheherazade knows only one thing for sure about her new husband: he has a reputation for killing his wives after a single night of intimacy.

Desperate and unwilling to meet such an end, Scheherazade cleverly decides to outwit the king. She convinces him to listen to a story before consummating the marriage and once he agrees, she begins to tell the most mesmerizing and engaging tale. Then, just before bringing the tale to an end, she pleads utter exhaustion and begs him to give her until the next night to finish. Thus begins Scheherazade's tales of 1001 Arabian Nights. Not only does she put off her execution, but along the way she tames the king.

This smoky Middle Eastern spread is the perfect way to ring in summer. So, nab a few eggplants, fire up the grill and make a batch. Find a copy of 1001 Arabian Nights, grab a generous handful of pita chips and find a comfortable spot to recline. Then let yourself fall head first into Scheherazade's magical tales.

June 18, 2015

Cherry Hand Pies

Fresh Cherry Pie for One
Every year around this time, I say goodbye to my comfortable pants and eat my way into a semi-conscious state of bliss. Weeks before it happens, I try to cut back on calories, hit the gym, and even press myself to do a few extra laps in the pool. I feel victorious; strong; almost as if I might, at least once, avoid the (pardon the pun) pitfalls of cherry season. But no sooner do I feel able to withstand the short harvest, than I fall by the wayside and happily succumb.

Mr. B is supposed to be the strong one, but once I start talking about pies and turnovers, he forgets about his role, and then he starts asking the question, "Is it pie day today?" But he knows as well as I do that we always start talking pie weeks before we start eating pie. I'm not sure why it takes us so long, but I figure it must have something to do with the sheer labor intensity of pitting five pounds of cherries. Yep. Five pounds—for two people. You must be wondering if my pants are ever comfortable, but I assure you, some things just must be done with passionate vigor and I'd say cherry pie is one of those things.

I've said this before, but it's worth saying again. Let me just say that in my heart of hearts, I know that there are really only two kinds of people in this world: pie people and cake people. I definitely, definitely, definitely fall into the cake category. However, when I think about one of those memorable childhood food moments from my life, those little Hostess hand pies (cherry, thank you) with that crazy sweet glaze, stick in my memory. That said, I LOVE cherry pie, oh, and I can easily eat a sweet potato pie, too,  but other than that, I'm just not that into pie. It was with this particular childhood memory that I embarked on this year's pie making, which led me straight to these beautiful little hand pies, perfect for tucking in a picnic lunch.

June 01, 2015

The Big Pig

Mr. B's Famous BBQ Pork Ribs
Most mornings, Mr. B is only too happy to lace up his shoes and hike the hills with me. It's a good way for us to enjoy the beautiful landscape, talk about our work, and enjoy each other's company.

Usually, our walks are pretty quiet, though we stumble across the usual deer, wild turkeys, and the occasional and somewhat rare, red fox. 

Once, however, in an attempt to get a closer view of what we thought was a fox, we mistakenly found ourselves sneaking up on a mountain lion. Thankfully, we realized our error quickly enough to divert disaster and with our arms raised overhead, we quickly retreated, without ever turning our backs.

It was after that near fatal encounter and the almost endless retelling of the story that a handful of friends, along with my mother, sent to Mr. B and I a colorful assortment of whistles. Granted, in the weeks that followed, Mr. B decided that brandishing a sturdy walking stick was more prudent than a whistle, but, I was, nonetheless, charmed by the whistles and took to carrying one whenever we were out and about.

Of course, as time passed, Mr. B slowly forgot how frighteningly close we were to meeting our maker at the paws of a mountain lion, so my penchant for the whistle became a bit of a joke. Not one to take anything personally, I continued to wear the whistle around my neck, just in case.

The other morning, after a strong cup of coffee, I wiped the sleep from my eyes, laced up my trail shoes and headed off to Mr. B's office to see if he wanted to join me for an early morning romp. I found him deep in his work and after a brief exchange of good mornings, he bid me to go on without him. So, as was customary, I grabbed my sunglasses and my whistle and headed off into the morning.

I hadn't even gone a quarter of a mile when I realized that the cars on the main road were slowing down, an oddity that should have drawn my immediate attention, but, lost in my own thoughts, I continued along. It was then that I head the alarmingly loud grunts and wet squeals of what could only be a pig. Sure enough, as I turned to look to my side, a rather large, wild pig was running straight toward me, its eyes fixed upon me with a mixture of fear and aggression.

Instinctively, I reached for my whistle and just as the beast was nearing in on me, I blew as loudly as I could, breaking the calm of what would otherwise have been a peaceful morning. Frightened, the pig made a mad dash for an open field and disappeared into the thick grass and I, with my heart beating wildly in my chest, turned and quickly went in the other direction.

It took a good mile until I felt at ease, and while I continued to look over my shoulder every so often, I went on with my walk. How unbelievable, I thought, of all the things that could have happened, being chased by a wild pig was simply something that had never crossed my mind. 

Long before I arrived home to tell Mr. B about the morning's events, it dawned on me that if he had been along, he would have gone after that pig. Not, of course, in an act of chivalry to protect me from any harm, but with dreams of dragging the pig home, digging a large pit in the yard, and cooking it to perfection.

Sure enough, when Mr. B heard the story, in true Cajun fashion, he asked me why I didn't chase the pig down. "Surely," he said, "there must have been a few large rocks around."

While I can only hope that Mr. B and that pig never cross paths, I must admit, when it comes to BBQ pork ribs, no one makes them better than Mr. B.