Don’t get me wrong… Mom does too – just not as much as (or with the enjoyment of) Dad.
And most of his creations start the same way: “Cut up some bacon and put it in a pan, then put in the ________”.
Do you remember the cilantro-chile sauce I made a few weeks ago? I shared some with Dad (because SURPRISE! he popped in when I was making it), and then gave him a bit to take home. A few hours later, I get a call. “I took some Polish Plum tomatoes and a diced onion and cooked them down a bit, then added all of that cilantro sauce. It thickened up and I ate almost all of it on tortilla chips. I’ll send some with Mom to market tomorrow so you can try it.”
And he did… and I tasted it… and Mom gave out samples to anyone and everyone in Goshen that was willing to try it. “OMG THIS IS SO GOOD” “Do you have this for sale?” “Don’t put that away, I still have chip left!” It was a huge hit.
I know our tomato crop is done, but you could make something very similar with canned diced tomatoes, cooked down with onions and garlic until it resembles a very chunky salsa. Stir in the cilantro sauce and you’re good to go! I put some of it on top of a cheese omelet. I also spread it on a fish fillet, then baked it. It was great, especially with some whole wheat couscous that was mixed with some of the original cilantro-chile sauce.
So this week, I’m making another batch of sauce so Dad can make his creation for the freezer. I was told by both him AND Gerry that we need as much as we can get before the cilantro is done. Apparently I can’t cook anything without sharing. It’s just a given, like part of my rent package or something.
I picked up the October issue of Bon Appetit magazine the other day at the drugstore. As it does every year, my 7 week (so far) allergy bout escalated into a sinus infection and I needed antibiotics. WHY NOW???? Why, when farmwork is at an all-time high, do I have to suffer from allergies? Ugh….. [pity party over]
I had time to wait for my meds so I scanned the magazine aisle. I love the fall issues of cooking magazines and although I no longer subscribe (kind of senseless for a vegetarian, plus I couldn’t actually FOLLOW a recipe even if I wanted to!), I make sure I pick up the holiday issues. They have so many great ideas for fall produce.
This last issue had an article about Lidia Bastianich [LOVE her and her cooking style… I’m like a 60 year-old woman watching PBS cooking shows, all while Thomas is whining, “can’t we watch Spongebob?” It ends well, though, with both of us watching and getting ideas of things to make. He’s so observant!]
The Butternut Squash Gnocchi recipe caught my attention, and since I already had some ambercup squash roasted and mashed in the fridge, well, this was perfect! I boiled a few russet potatoes, then riced them with my handy-dandy ricer, a gift from my dear friend Fletch [Browsing through a cooking store, we pass them. “Do you have one of these?” Nope… never needed one before. “Oh, you need this. You can’t make good mashed potatoes without it.” Okey doke! Who am I to turn down kitchen goodie gifts?]
Riced potatoes and mashed squash mixed together with an egg, some freshly grated parmesan and nutmeg and a bunch of flour (but not too much!) formed a lovely dough. I kneaded it and divided into pieces, then rolled each into a long snake. I cut them into small bits and started rolling them along the back of a fork, as instructed. You do that so you have some texture — something to help the sauce cling.
Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that little Polish fingers are not designed to shape gnocchi. If they were, the stinkin’ dumplings would end in -ski. It took me a lot longer than anticipated to form them, but I got the hang of it toward the end.
Popped half of them in boiling water for about 15 minutes, then took them out and found them to be a bit mushy. Well, maybe that’s because a) they’re still really hot and haven’t been sauteed and sauced. Or maybe it’s because b) I missed the part in the instructions where it said to CHILL THEM for at least an hour before you boil them.
The correct answer is b.
They were wonderfully homey and comforting, cooked in a bit of butter with garlic and minced fresh sage (Thomas stirred this around, telling me, “that sage smells delicious. What does it taste like?” It tastes like it smells…. “Does it taste like mint?” No… does it SMELL like mint? If you’re gonna say, “gee, we don’t know WHY he has a snarky attitude,” don’t. I’m well aware.
The Boy didn’t care for the gnocchi with the sage, although he loved the smell of the herb. Once it was on his plate, the story changed. I told him to pick off the green stuff and he ate every last dumpling.
After dinner and bath, and just at bedtime, Papa came to bring Thomas his fish…. They had gone fishing earlier and Dad just finished cleaning them, so we’ll have them tonight for dinner. Dad came in, smelled what was on the stove and promptly walked over and picked up a spoon. He thoroughly enjoyed the gnocchi, and the zucchini sauteed with garlic, and politely refused leftovers as I continued packing them into Tupperware for him to take home.
It’s not unusual for Dad to work well past normal dinnertime (or in this case, clean fish). He’ll do much of his work after everyone leaves the fields, then go home around 9 or so and make himself something to eat. Most nights, I’m preparing dinner for The Boy and myself, and Dad must smell it or sense it or just KNOW that I’ve got something to share (and I do, because I can’t for the life of me cook for one or two).
So up on the deck he stomps, kicking the dirt off his mud-caked work boots (oh, if you could SEE that farmer’s tan!!!). Don’t ask me why, but it makes me smile every time I hear that familiar stomp. I just know I will miss it dearly, someday. But for now, I simply make sure I have a little extra food on hand, and some spare Tupperware… just in case.