Sunday, August 15, 2010


(or, when life hands you zucchini latkes gone horribly wrong, you make zucchini-ade.)

Finding new and delicious things to do with zucchini has been my mission this summer, a mission made possible by a freakishly productive zucchini plant in the otherwise anemic garden.

On Thursday night I made up a zucchini latke recipe that failed horribly, resulting in massive piles of egg and matzo meal-soaked zucchini strands coating my non-stick griddle. Dejected I scraped the mess up, dumped it into a 1 quart clean wonton soup container, stuffed it into the fridge, and forgot about it.

On Saturday morning I picked two more gigantic zucchini from the garden (along with 3 cups of grape tomatoes, two cucumbers, one "nice first try" head of cauliflower, and one red pepper) and set them all in the dish drainer as I contemplated their fateful trip into my stomach.

This is where the deliciousness comes in.

I find a recipe in my risotto cookbook for zucchini stuffed with risotto topped with handmade tomato sauce. Interesting. So I start. First, I blanch the largest zucchini and set it aside. Then, I get distracted by efforts to make a raspberry/peach pie with handmade whole wheat crust. I get the pie into the oven after struggling with the recipe-free crust and remember I now have to make tomato sauce followed by risotto followed by a period of baking in the oven. Ugh.

I persevere. I chop the grape tomatoes (a fine substitution for the required plum tomatoes). While chopping I'm crisping 1/4 pound of pancetta I bought earlier in the day. I pull the pancetta out of the cast iron dutch oven given to me by Sitboaf and prepare to drop in the tomatoes when I remember I love the smell of onions cooking in pork fat. So I quickly mince 1/8th of an onion and toss it in the pan. Then I remember I harvested a bulb of garlic from the garden this morning and I quickly tear it apart, peeling the tiny tiny cloves. While I'm deconstructing the garlic the onions become soft. Good timing! I press the garlic into the pan of aromatic onion, I scrape the chopped tomatoes from the cutting board into the pan, and enjoy the smell of the sizzle. I'm psyched I'm almost done with this recipe, because I've been cooking for nearly two hours.

Then I remember I still have to make the rice. Ugh. That will add 30 more minutes to this cooking trip. I don't want to cook for another 30 minutes.

And this is where the inspiration hit.

I thought to myself, "I don't need to make rice. I have that shredded zucchini in the fridge." So I pull it out to bring it to room temperature (which is hot, because the oven has been on for two hours. I hollow out the blanched zucchini while the tomatoes continue to soften. When the tomatoes are nearly deconstructed I dumped in the zucchini formerly known as latkes, mix it together and taste. Oh, so delicious! It was hard not to gobble the entire pan.

Restraining myself, because I know I'll be pissed if I eat all of the stuffing without ever putting it into the zucchini, I toss the tasting spoon into the dishwasher, and pull out a new spoon. I then stuff the four hollowed zucchini, cover them with Parmesan cheese, and toss them in the oven for 20 minutes.

That will be dinner for the next two nights at The Tiny Bungalow. Psych!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gas Station Gratitude

Yesterday morning, at 6:10 AM, I sidled up to the pumps at a local full-serve gas station - filling the tank with gas before starting the 18 mile commute to the office. On the passenger seat next to me was an open purse overflowing with receipts, my half-eaten breakfast (turkey on wheat toast), and coffee soaked napkins from the drippy Venti Bold coffee I had just purchased at Starbucks. The stop for gas presented time to create a little order out of the chaos beside me.

As I saw the pump guy leave the booth and head towards my car, I hit "down" on my window and flipped the gas tank open. As he arrived I turned my head and called out, "Can you please fill her up with the least expensive unleaded?" Suddenly, there was a smiling brown face in my field of vision, and the pump guy looked at me and said, "Good morning!" I was startled, and realized that I was interacting with this man as if he were a machine designed to pump gas, rather than a human being providing me with a service. I stopped my front seat multi-tasking, looked at him, and said "Good morning to you."


It is good to be reminded of the dignity of the people who provide services in this world. People who work in grocery stores are making it possible for me to enjoy beautiful and life sustaining food. Post office workers make it possible for me to stay connected with the people I love, and garbage men keep our society safe from disease by hauling away our trash. I invite you to remember to acknowledge the people who provide services that make your life easier, safer and more pleasant by saying hello, or thank you, or taking the time to find out just a little more about who they are and what makes their heart go pitter pat.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

PMS Cafe'

This is my new restaurant, open 24 hours, seven days a week and serving an all-you can eat buffet that includes:

On the sweet side:
  • Chocolate bars

  • Chocolate ice cream

  • Cupcakes (all varieties)

  • Boston cream pie

On the salty, greasy side:
  • Chinese food

  • Cheese (all varieties)

  • Pepperoni pizza with extra cheese

  • Crudite with french onion dip

  • Potato and/or tortilla chips (all varieties except baked)

  • Carnitas, hold the rice, hold the veggies, hold the beans, hold the tortillas

  • Movie popcorn

  • French fries - with cheese, gravy or ketchup

  • Macaroni and cheese

On the salty, greasy, sweet side:
  • Chocolate covered potato chips

  • Peanut butter by the spoonful (side order of M&Ms optional)

All special orders honored upon request.

Private booth seating for one comes with complimentary headsets with affirmations that repeat, "Yes dear, you're right dear," "No, those shorts don't make you look fat," and "I didn't even notice that blemish on your cheek;" televisions exclusively tuned to Lifetime for Women, Wedding Central, Discovery Health, and the Oxygen Network (coming soon - the Oprah Network!); and collectors' editions of OK, Star, and US magazines featuring movie stars with the worst bikini bodies and botched plastic surgery procedures.

Forget the mint! All checks delivered with a complimentary pair of ibuprofen and your choice of diuretic.

Smells of Summer

Some of my favorite summer smells include:
  • Fresh basil in the refrigerator

  • Tomato plants

  • Newly mown grass

  • The beach at low tide

  • Sea spray

  • Baking ice cream cones

  • Hot asphalt

  • Freshly sliced limes.

Every one of these smells evoke a memory of a favorite summer activity or a feeling of decadence and relaxation. What are your favorite summer smells? Why?

Getting Older Part One: No longer sweating the small stuff

As I get older I'm finding things that once aggravated me to the point of being incensed no longer have the same head spinning effect on me. Things like:
  • Inappropriate use of apostrophes

  • Professional correspondence with obvious spelling errors

  • Grammatical errors in general (printed or spoken)

  • People playing loud music in cars with the windows rolled down

  • Disruptive teenagers in public spaces

  • People who wonder why other people don't do things exactly like they do

  • Heavyset people wearing horizontal stripes

  • Designers and manufacturers who produce clothing for heavyset people with horizontal stripes

  • Panty lines, whale tails, or colored/printed underpants with see through pants or skirts.

My boss often says, "If people knew better, they'd do better." I've come to believe this. People and institutions don't do the things above to aggravate me, and make the world intentionally ugly and unhappy.

To be fair, there ARE things that continue to inspire irrational responses from me, like:
  • Dog poo left in public spaces

  • People who are rude to retail and restaurant employees

  • Screaming children left unsoothed in public spaces.

You COULD say I was once a very uptight person who let minor issues take over her life. I would counter by saying I once had expectations that the world could be a harmonious and beautiful place. What I know now is that the world will never be perfect.

What is even better is knowing that I no longer "need" it be perfect in order to feel safe and at peace in my day-to-day life. Expecting, needing something to happen that is impossible is only a set-up for failure - mine and those of the people around me.

Ah, it is good to grow older.