Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A new recipe, woe to bambi and Aunt Mary R is LHAO

"Life," Forrest Gump said, "is like a box of chocolates. . . you never know what you're gonna get."

I try my best to prepare dinners in that spirit when I'm home and loose in the kitchen, as I am this week. Today, for instance we had a Mediterranean themed dinner. Linda knew about the little pork tenderloin roast, of course, because she bought it and put it in the refrigerator last weekend - one of those marinated things, very good actually - and she even suggested it for today's dinner. This one was marinated in Italian spices. So the roast was no surprise.

But the potatoes, ahh. My original intention was simply to mash them and serve them with Heinz brown gravy from the can. Lazy, I know; but it's impossible to make good brown gravy from the drippings off a puny little low fat pork roast. And anyway that would have been off theme for potatoes are, from a Mediterranean diet point of view, suitable only for feeding to pigs, or at least that's what Grandmom L used to say every Thanksgiving. She also had that opinion of corn, only more so.

But I was writing about tonight's dinner, and traditional mashed potatoes wouldn't fit Linda's stricture that we should eat lower cholesterol meals for a few days to balance off the delicious but ultimately deadly diet we enjoyed over the Thanksgiving weekend. There's a reason you don't see Pilgrims walking around. The ones the Indians didn't wisely tomahawk or shoot full of arrows are all dead of heart disease from using scrawny, practically inedible turkeys as an excuse to indulge in mashed potatoes, real brown gravy, bread stuffing cooked with butter and drippings, and apple and pumpkin pies with flaky crusts.

So my traditional mashed potatoes were out, for a couple of good reasons, even though they are, if I may say so myself, in a league by themselves, suitable for the rare well loved king. If the king is well out of reach of his doctors. For what are mashed potatoes, after all, but an elegant vehicle for exploding the flavor of butter and salt in a worthy person's mouth without undue distraction. Ahhh. Mashed potatoes.

Where was I? I was wondering how to make the potatoes both low in cholesterol and high in Mediterraneanness. So I made mashed potatoes in the classic Greek style, or at least in the style the classical Greeks would have made mashed potatoes if they had had potatoes.

I peeled and boiled the potatoes (about 1.5 pounds) and then mashed them with four cloves of garlic that I roasted and steamed in their skins in a little pouch of aluminum foil for an hour or so in the oven with the pork roast. Then I added about a half cup of pitted kalamata olives and mashed them some more while adding about a quarter cup of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Superb! Creamy and very mildly garlic and kalamata flavored, but punctuated with bursts of intense flavor as you came upon the pieces of the olives. I'm happy to report that Linda was impressed after some initial skepticism.

To go with the pork and the potatoes I thawed a small container of the Swiss Chard that I liberated from Sam's garden and parboiled back in August while he and Deb were down in Florida. Sauteed with a little garlic and oil it was the perfect accompaniment, even down to the fact that acqusition via rapine adds a special savor to food in a very Mediterranean fashion. The pear or the fig from across the fence always tastes sweeter than the one from your own tree.

Update: Linda and I just got back from our walk. A cold night, but warmed by the changing scenery. At this season the neighborhood changes nightly as more and more Christmas lights appear. I always feel just a little guilty that we don't put up any lights until just before Christmas; but we're probably the ones who most enjoy the neighborhood lights since we walk every night unless the weather is ridiculous. Fortunately rationalization is one of my most well honed skills. I comfort myself by remembering that without us to view them those lights wouldn't even exist, or at least that's what some hyper-reductive philosophers assert.

Have I mentioned that the deer herd has been much in evidence lately. I'm hoping for a major trimming of their numbers over the next few weeks. There are now three bow hunters staking out the property, two experienced and one novice. It's not quite as much coverage as I'd like, but there's no way the herd is going to get through the winter without significant attrition. Here's to the deer. May they roast in peace.

Dave B has been seriously practicing and can shoot a very credible group with his compound bow. And he met and is being mentored by an interesting young fellow named Rick who's a bow hunting advisor at French Creek Outfitters. Between the two of them they have shooting lanes cleared around tree stands that cover the deer trails in the woods across the little creek behind the pond, and the swampy area below the pond where they like to sleep.

Rick is from St. Augustine down in Florida and he's apparently been hunting all his life. He said that this year he's using a recurve bow rather than a compound one for the challenge. I joked with him that after he gets a deer with the recurve bow he should set out to make his own bow and hunting arrows and take things to their most basic. Then I was surprised when he said he's thought about it. So I led him to the little grove of osage orange trees and told him he's welcome to cut some if he decides he wants to make his own bow from scratch. When I see him again I need to mention that I have a few six foot long splits English oak that may also serve for a bow.

Dave and Rick aren't the deer herd's only problems; for the other day I got an exceptionally pleasant surprise when Bob showed up. Bob's been hunting the property for a few years but I wasn't expecting to see him again. He's been on and off chemotherapy for a while. A couple of years ago he had to switch to a crossbow for lack of arm strength to hold on target.

What a trooper. When he switched to the crossbow he joked about the fact that it's a major advantage, the only good aspect of the cancer he's been fighting. Last winter he got four deer, but surprised me when I met him in the woods in January or February by calmly saying that he was probably enjoying his last week of hunting because the doctors were warning him that he didn't have long to go. May he stock his freezer with venison for many years to come.

Update 2: Aunt Mary R is no doubt laughing her ass off up in heaven after reading this article.


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