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August 26, 2015

Caponata

Eggplant Caponata on Crisped Flat Bread
Last night, I attended the launch party for Edible SLO magazine, a publication that I've written for since its inception 2 years ago. It was quite impressive and rewarding to see each issue lined up in succession, but it was even more enjoyable to mingle and connect with other contributors, advertisers, and of course, finally meet my editor.

Writing is a strange enough occupation on its own. Writers spend long hours alone, talk to themselves, and tend to forge deep relationships with people online that they've never met in person, or even talked with on the phone. Mostly, I think, we're observers of life, most comfortable stepping away from the action and watching scenes unfold around us. We like to analyze information, turn it over in our minds, process it, and then translate it--at least try--for others.

I enjoyed the event and had a several great conversations with an interesting mix of people. I also met another writer and really enjoyed connecting with her and sharing a few stories about our work. But then, I found myself in writer's mode, silently slipping around the room, listening in on other conversations, taking in the details, and of course, making mental notes. Talking to a writer is risky; one can never be sure that what they say won't wind up in a story down the line.

I arrived home well past dinner. Mr. B had already eaten and since the earlier part of my day had been frantic, he'd had to scratch together his meal from a mix of leftovers. Thus, my only option was to rummage through the refrigerator in search of the leftovers of the leftovers. Luckily, I spied a jar containing the last of the caponata I'd made on Saturday. I'm not sure how Mr. B overlooked it, but his questionable eyesight turned out to be my lucky break.

Caponata, or eggplant salad, is a traditional Sicilian dish made from 'fried' eggplant, celery, olives and tomatoes. Just like anything, it has its regional variances and depending on where you are in Sicily, it can contain fish or anchovies, pine nuts and even raisins. I've even seen recipes that included a spoonful of cocoa powder. It's a simple dish to make, but be warned, it's highly addictive. In fact, it took me only minutes to polish off the entire jar, stopping only long enough to put down my caponata topped flat bread and take a picture.

It made for the perfect late evening August dinner. I enjoyed eating it standing up at the kitchen counter and recounting, for Mr. B, the events of the evening.

August 20, 2015

Mr. B's Famous Shrimp Risotto

The Secret? Shrimp Stock!
How could it be that summer is coming to an end, I wondered. But as I made my way up the hillside on an early morning walk, I couldn't help but notice the apricot trees, their branches sagging beneath the weight of hundreds of small orange fruit, And, nearby, the first of the fall apples were just turning red, the lower branches already picked clean by foraging deer.

My life has been a whirlwind of activity and with work seeping in, there's been little time for cooking or writing. Like the deer, I've been foraging, too. Nibbling on cheese sticks and polishing off handfuls of fat juicy summer grapes and even emptying the occasional box of crackers and the more usual bottle of wine.

Mr. B's been on his own to navigate through the stack of assorted meats--grass-fed steaks, thick pork chops, fat chicken thighs--that I somehow manage to buy each week. With rare exception, he's more likely to fire up the grill than to rattle pans, so even his suppers have taken on a utilitarian simplicity.

So it was that one Friday night, not so long ago, we found ourselves in that frantic moment of realization that we had nothing to cook--an especially frustrating feeling to have with a freezer full of meat. Thankfully, there's always the loose bag of frozen shrimp on hand, which after a quick run under cold water, thaw quickly enough.

It was Mr. B who sensed a cooking intervention was in order and thus, suggested we work together to cook up a delectable shrimp risotto. He quickly peeled the shrimp and made a stock, while I minced onions and garlic and with just a handful of ingredients and in less than 35 minutes, we we're happily tucking into big bowls of perfectly cooked risotto--the perfect remedy for dusting away our culinary cobwebs and getting back to manning our trusty Amana.