Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This And That

Let's see.....

It's been over a week since I've done more than leave comments.....

Must blog about something.....


Had a lovely weekend. Played with the kids, had a tornado-filled storm skive past us to the West, leaving us with lots of lovely lightening and thunder (the fun stuff) without the miserable cowering in the basement with the spiders and dead centipedes, no matter how many bottles of wine we have down there. Yes. I've a cork screw there, too, next to the bottles of wine and batteries and canned tuna. No way I'm being sucked up like Dorothy, sober, whenever it happens. Also committed double homicide and went to a fabulous cooking class featuring my love, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Don't tell Charles. He'd be jealous. Or maybe I should be worried. That olive oil is a seductive thing for him, too.

It all started when my lovely friend, Ariella, who moved from Jersey to the Frozen Tundra just to be my friend last summer, called. (Well, OK, maybe she moved to be with her husband.)

"Hey!" she said. "There's these cooking classes at this cool shop in Madison. Interested?" Hmmm. Food. Cooking. Food. Food. Yup.

We went down the possibilities on the list and found that there were few that we could manage, what with my little darlings (I adore my children but don't think that they'd be adored in a cooking class as they looked on in horror at something being made with more than 1 ingredient. Their meals are completely deconstructed, as evidenced by their dinner tonight: A slice of ham, a pile of greens and tomatoes, 2 slices of wheat bread-and-butter, which adds up to make a ham sandwich, doesn't it?) and work schedules. My Charles and her Erik came along for the fun.

The Sunday Afternoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil class, it was.

The shop is rather lovely. Lots of cooking things. Not badly priced at all. Some I decided I couldn't live without. We were also given discount coupons that were perishable (expire in May).

We wandered around a bit and headed up to the cooking demonstration area, on the 2nd floor. There, we joined 6 other women and sat down, expectantly facing a kitchen that would fit in a 400 sq. ft. apartment. There were 4 nice-seeming women and 1 odd woman, who took her share and her invisible friend's share, as well as the obligatory person who Must Ask A Question Every 5 Minutes Or She Will Suffer From The Piles And The Grippe And The Dropsy. I found it interesting that someone who was a child in the 'woman's place is in the kitchen' era that seemed to be the 1940s-1950s hadn't, so she claimed, the vaguest idea what end of the spatula to hold. I'm not exaggerating. She was in raptures over how to hold a whisk. Ariella, am I just being mean and catty? No? Didn't think so. Why must some feel like they must ask the most stupid questions? They truly seemed to throw the lovely woman who was holding the class. I think they made her husband roll his eyes, but he was facing the back and all I could judge was his shaking shoulders. Charles, ever charitable, thought that maybe she was raised with servants and was just recently cut off from the family and was trying to not just make it on her own but make it with all the good things she had had on her plate. If that is true, I take back all my irritated thoughts. But ONLY if it is true.

And so it went, through the olive oil gelato and olive oil cookies and the olive oils that we were encouraged to taste as wines, in cups (but most of us chose to dip pieces of bread in) and the ohmygoditwassogood dish of baby scallops and garbanzo beans poached in olive oil spooned over grits (never had them, but if grits were all made with heavy cream, a cup of butter, a cup of Parmesan cheese and, I'm sure, a bottle of EVOO, well, the South would never have fallen, as the Yanks would have taken a bite and fallen into a Sleeping Beauty-like swoon and still be slumbering on the outskirts of Atlanta, which would never have burned, but whose suburbs would have spread north to Hudson's Bay.) There was also a lovely salad with spring greens, strawberries, these shockingly good almonds and radishes. And a dressing of olive oil.


Of course, all that oil, even in rather small portions, made for some very full stomachs. We'd planned for dinner at this lovely-sounding restaurant, but decided that we'd better pass.

There must be something in EVOO similar to Tequila (Yes, Teri?), as I felt the utter necessity after all of it for leaving there an extra $90 dollars poorer for the acquisition of silicone oven mitts, lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil, a baguette pan, a citrus grater that won't extract bits of knuckle as well as peel, a very comfortable vegetable peeler and a red silicone spatula. Charles also got a large bar of lovely dark chocolate that was mysteriously gone a mere 6 hours later. He did, I'm proud to say, resist the mustards, possibly because the 23 jars of other mustards already in our refrigerator seemed a bit excessive. Or not. You'll have to ask him why the sudden mustard resistance. Good thing there was the discount, yes?

So, we went back home. A bit squidgy from all the consumed spendy lubricant, but happy.


The double murder?



See, there were these cinquefoil bushes planted by the previous owners of our house.



There are few plants I hate: Martha Washington geraniums. Marigolds planted all in a row. Hostas ringing trees and foundations. Cinquefoil. Leggy, shaggy cinquefoil. Soooooo...I happened to go out with a pair of loppers and a spade, Saturday, before the storms and, well, made the remaining 2 of them......disappear.

You won't tell, will you? I don't think there will be any witnesses. Just the crocuses and daffodils and they will be long gone by the time the perennials that are poking up are cognizant. Right now, the rest of the garden is just small leaves, barely able to recognize the difference from sun and not-sun. By the time they have any coherent thoughts ("Hey! Where are Muriel and Wanda? They should be THERE and THERE.") the bulbs should be yellow and doddery. And by then, lovely new things should be planted there. The fact that there are 2 new bodies in the fire pit in the back should raise no suspicion, especially as I've taken great pains to make sure that there's no communication between the front and the back, aside from the one peony and the two lilacs.

And we all know how unreliable peonies and lilacs are.

You won't tell the thug deer, will you?

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Blogger Cagey said...

I'm totally telling the deer. Totally.

I'm with you on landscaping around trees. I like a tree to just stick out of the freakin' ground with nothing around it. Like, oh I don't know - in NATURE.

However, I do like Hostas. Contained in a corner.

9:54 PM  
Blogger listmaker said...

Ah, hell, I'd kill those things, too. There are many plants far more worthy of yard space.

This week my front yard is full of crocus. Snowdrops in the backyard.
Loads of other things are coming up, but are as yet unidentifiable.
Got any suggestions for a ground cover that would grow in the shade and on a steep (and by steep I mean practically vertical) slope? We are literally losing ground into the gorge. Must stabilize before we lose the garage.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

EVOO like tequila? Yes, I can see it. I think that menu might have caused all sorts of uninhibited behavior out of me...

What happens if you mix tequila and EVOO? I propose an experiment!

(I sent you an e-mail, responding to your e-mail to me.)

12:30 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Oh my. I love the way you describe your yard/garden. How wonderful.

Okay, and I followed the link to the weird yellow plant and found another link to "deer are a problem." This lead me to the site that explains ways to get rid of deer. Now, I know they like plants, but is a nibble-free yard worth having to spread human urine or hang stockings with human hair in them? Aren't the deer more attractive?

A cooking class would be fun. I wish DM and I lived closer to you because I'd make her go and we'd have fun tasting and cooking. Yes, sounds lovely.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Cagey- (gasp) No! You wouldn't! (Wait. Is that book we're reading for your book club teaching you nothing? We should be like totally supportive sisters. Or maybe not sisters. Beyond sisters. Bisters?) Hostas have their place, just not acting as petticoats. Same with daylilies.

Listie- (clap, clap, clap! New house, new plants!) As far as erosion control, I had a few thoughts: vinca major--some of these have lovely varigated leaves, too. Vinca minor would also be a good choice. What about wild strawberries? They spread quickly and send out runners to hold things in place. I then pulled some books: There's something called mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica) that looks pretty (can't eat the fruits, though); bugleweed (Ajuga reptans 'jungle beauty') that spreads far with shiny bronze green leaves, wild cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum) (I love hardy geraniums); dead nettle (Lamium maculatum)--pretty, varigated leaves, little pink flowers; European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum)--'handsome evergreen mats of clossy, dark green leaves; Jamanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). I'm not sure which USDA zone you're in but most of these are hardy to zone 4-5. There are a couple of great books that you might find helpful, given the constraints of your new yard: "Right Plant, Right Place" by Nicloa Ferguson and the books "What Plant Where" and "What Perennial Where" both by Roy Lancaster.

Teri- Noooooo! First Rozanne's email and now yours! Nothing got to me. Nada. Given the EVOO gelato, which was yummy and tasted definitely of olive oil, I'm sure there must be recipes that mix the two. EVOO and tequila shake? Tequila cake drizzled with a 'simple glaze of EVOO, tequila and confectioner's sugar'?

Beth- In my book, no. Not worth it. Just plant some for the deer and some for you. Although seeing my saplings stripped of their bark over the winter is giving me second thoughts. If I were endowed with a male appendage, I might not bother to return to the house when next I had to relieve myself. Perhaps I should talk to Charles. A cooking class with the two of you would be such a hoot!

7:47 AM  
Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

That scallop dish...must...have...recipe....

9:03 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Mmm. Food. Olive oil. Food. Yum. Now I am hungry and my stupid lunch is 2 hours away.

I would love to go to a cooking class with you and Beth. Keem might fall over in shock since, according to her, she is the only one that does any cooking (which is completely not true. I made spaghetti last month). That would make a fun road trip, though.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Ariella said...

I think the thing that really shocked me about the woman's questions was when the instructor rhetorically asked, "And you know what happens when we mix lemon juice and milk?" And the woman said, "No, what happens?" I was totally nonplussed because even if you don't KNOW what happens when lemon juice is added to milk, surely you can figure out what happens when an acid is mixed with a curdling substance? Yes.

ANYWAY. The interview today was... interesting. Here are two questions the interviewers asked me, and you can probably gauge how I'm feeling about the job right now: 1) How would you feel if the position involved a significant backlog of cases, and would you be willing to stay late when other staff attorneys were leaving in order to eliminate the backlog? 2) How do you feel about commuting to Milwaukee 2 weeks out of every month?

HAHAHA. Anyway, this comment is getting long. I am going to bring a camera along for our shopping trip on Saturday and you can make a photoblog entry of the things we don't buy (because shopping with me is like a slow death; don't say I didn't warn you).

4:47 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Mona- You asked for it, you got it, babe:

Poached Bay Scallops with Rosemary Whipped Cream and Chickpeas:

Rosemary whipped cream
1 C heavy cream
2 sprigs rosemary

put the rosemary sprigs in the cream and refrigerate overnight. Remove the rosemary and whip to firm peaks.

Poached Scallops and Chickpeas:
extra virgin olive oil
4 rosemary sprigs
32-40 medium bay scallops (or more--I dunno, say a pound? They're tiny things)
2 cups chickpeas, either canned or boiled and peeled. (Canned would be just fine. It's what she used.)
salt and pepper

Using enough oil to cover the scallops, heat the oil and rosemary in a large saute pan until about 180F. Add the scallops and cook until just opaque. Don't over cook, as you know. Maybe 2-5 minutes. Then add the chick peas and simmer 30-60 secs, to warm. Remove with slotted spoon.

Add to scallops and chickpeas:
1 peeled, seeded, chopped tomato and grated zest of 1 lemon.

Serve atop pasta, polanta or by itself in a bowl with a big spoon in front of the TV. Top with dollops of the rosemary whipped cream.


OK. What I'd do differently? I'd probably saute the scallops and chickpeas in a large saute pan, add the tomatoes and lemon zest and put on top of pasta, say a linguini or a spaghetti. Some parmesan would probably be lovely in place of the rosemary cream if you didn't want to do it, but the cream was very lovely. It's extremely fast.

Dana- If I lived with someone who liked to cook, I'd be in heaven. Mmmm. Spaghetti.

Ariella- I know, I know. I guess that one, while it seemed obvious to everyone else there, would not be something everyone over the age of 20 would know. But how to hold a whisk? Ummmm...with your hand? Hm. The dream job seems like not so much. How significant is 'significant'. How late is 'late'? We'll have lots to talk about. Don't worry, I'll stick pins in you. We'll shop to slowly for me and too quickly for you and laugh the whole time.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

It is a tribute to your writing that I now want to try grits.

And thanks for "The Dropsy" reference. It tickled me.

I gotta say, a part of me respects that older woman for having lived through that era and not conformed into learning to cook. Maybe she was a porn star from way back? Porn stars don't cook, right?

11:27 PM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

dish of baby scallops and garbanzo beans poached in olive oil spooned
My ooh inducing moment!

So when are you having your readers over for dinner? :)

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Ariella said...

Sanjay, she is an excellent cook! If you are ever invited, do not delay!

7:43 AM  
Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Ohhhh...thank you for the recipe! I'm wiping the drool off my shirt....

You rock!

7:48 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Jocelyn- That's the first I'd had them. Based on the eyebrow action of our instructor as she watched what her husband put in them, should I have them again, my expectations will be lowered. These clearly were not your usual grits. Pity. I love old medical terms like 'dropsy' and 'chilblains' and 'apoplexy'. You can't say them, even in your head without giggling in a most undignified manner.

Sanjay- Anytime you're in the area, of course! (And should I be in your part of the country, I reserve the right to dine with you and A! Your kitchen fixens look like they'd make angels sing. Must be scallop week.)

Ariella- You're just too nice and the much better cook.

Mona- I really hope you try it! It was very quick and easy. Have you ever checked out Jamie's blog? (Click on the '10 Signs Like This' link on my blogroll.) She is an amazing woman. She's from our part of the country but now in rural GA, and an incredible cook, gardener, and all-around person. She also has a separate food blog that you can get to from her site. (You rock, too!)

8:22 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I like how you dropped that intriguing bit of info about the double murder in the top of your post and then proceeded to talk about all that amazing food, as if you didn't have blood (sap?) on your hands.

I actually kind of like cinquefoil, but it often ends up looking all hideous and unruly with large flowerless bald patches. I guess I won't be pressing charges on behalf of the late Wanda or Muriel.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Stepping Over the Junk said...

I love olive oil. That shop and experience sounds really fun and invigorating...heh.


I like the idea of tuna and wine. Olive oil and seasoning with the tuna, yum

8:14 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Such a cool thing that your husbands went to cooking class! (even if they might have rolled their eyes!) Now you can expect them to help out with the gourmet cooking! (Even if it's simply caressing the smooth extra virgin!)

I wish I could have a fire pit in my back yard, but it's be frowned upon on our main street!

8:57 AM  
Blogger TopChamp said...

Ooh that sounds lovely! How do you poach in oil? Is that not frying?

I like hostas round trees... and marigolds. Is it just the uniform lines/rings you don't like?

Off to plant some marigolds seeds now actually before I end up with plants over winter instead of summer.

8:16 AM  
Blogger TopChamp said...

just spotted the recipe there... question answered!

9:32 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Rozanne- Liked that, huh? Sort of like hiding that really bad sin in the middle of a list of smaller ones, like in that scene in the movie "Moonstruck". Believe it or not, I am feeling a bit of remorse. I almost never murder plants, even ones I don't like. Had I been able to, I'd have moved Muriel and Wanda somewhere else, say by the road where The Plow could accidently off them.

SOtJ- I'd always wanted to do something like that. It was terribly nice. I picked up some lovely lemon infused olive oil that would be lovely drizzled over some tuna or halibut or something like that.

Ruth- They seemed to really like it! Even Erik, who's not a seafood fan (which Ariella and I, having grown up on the coasts with seafood that is neither frozen nor cooked to the consistancy of erasers, are plotting to change) ate all the scallops. We are hoping they want to emulate the instructor's husband, Mike, who wielded the whisk like a star and did every last dish (not to mention loaded the grits). So far, no go, though.

TopChamp!- So nice to make your acquaintance! I scuttled over to your blog. You garden! and are a musician! and are from Scotland! (Triply cool, indeed.) Keeping the temperature of the oil lowish (about 180F or about 85C) allows for poaching and not frying. As the scallops are water things, the oil won't seep in (oil and water don't mix) but keeps them from drying out at all while cooking.

Ah. Ringing trees. I think it's both the ringing that makes them look like very odd creatures in petticoats as well as the uniformity, as I also don't like things planted in rows, unless it's a vegetable garden, and that's for convenience. I adore clumps and irregular shapes in nature. I am not typical, at least for this area of the world. Lots of Swiss and German heritage. Lots of rows and ringing of trees.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm going to get those heirloom tomatoes started. Or die. (I've been saying that for a few weeks.)

And, bah! While nattering on, you've already gotten your answer. Hope mine was right.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Swan said...


I hope you don't mind an off-topic comment, but I think this is important: There is a great post on The Carpetbagger Report from a few days ago about the mainstream media's (specifically Time magazine's) ignoring the prosecutor purge scandal.

What explains the failure of the mainstream media to cover the purge scandal for so long, and so many other scandals? Do you think somebody just set up newspaper editors to cheat on their wives, and threatened to tell if the editors wouldn’t play ball when they come back some day and ask for something?

It wouldn’t be that hard to do, when you think about it. People wouldn’t talk about it.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one know that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.

9:17 AM  

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