Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A few more ideas

Last week my book group met again to enjoy each others' company, eat and drink well and discuss a lovely book. I had already read Tobias Wolfe's Old School (and blogged about it here), but was happy to read it again.

Actually, this time I didn't read it so much as listened to the book on CD while driving out to MA (while the critters were plugged into the portable DVD player with endless episodes of Pee-Wee's Playhouse). This time, I was laughing out loud at the telling of the Cow-Sci-Fi story that Ayn Rand chose as the winner of the school writing contest. The critters even pulled off their earphones and wanted to know what was so funny at which point in time I spluttered an incomprehensible summary which they promptly tuned out.

I still think this is a lovely book and the reader, Dan Cashman, did a fine job.

We accompanied our brisk discussion with food that felt like a celebration of the season.
Beverage and book (and Meg's elegant table)--ahhhh.

I brought a pitcher of peach basil sangria made with basil from the back deck and Red Haven peaches from the Farmer's Market. It was lovely, and the little pieces of peach bobbing in the glass soaked up the alcohol so they were like little boozy bombs when you got down to the bottom of the glass.

To keep us from getting too tipsy on them, I also made some eggplant caviar to go with sliced baguette. (It would be an excellent way to use up this week's farm share, come to think of it.)

I love eggplant caviar (recipe below) and don't remember to make it often enough--I usually just go the baba ganoush route but this dip/spread is more delicately flavored and really brings out the floral tones that eggplant can be convinced to release when treated with a slow roasting.

Then we moved from the front yard to the table and enjoyed Marilyn's beautifully composed salad with nasturtium blossoms, roasted beets and shaved Parmesan.

Our main course was broiled trout with basil sauce--a perfect homage to the Hemingway hero-worship by the boys in the book.
It was served with a corn flan that Ami made which was airy and sweet, and Jen brought an asparagus, roasted red pepper vegetable side dish.
Sarah and the mostaccioli
Then we wrapped it all up with Sarah's intense Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Cookies (recipe here). One of our members is heading off to Germany for a year on sabbatical and while we're all a little envious, we will miss her greatly (and are maybe trying to figure out how to finance a visit...). She also has the strongest sweet tooth of the bunch of us so Sarah's cookies were a fine send off: nutty, spicy, chewy and most of all, Chocolate.

Eggplant Caviar
This makes a lot so you can easily cut the recipe in half.

2 large eggplants (globe type) or equivalent number of smaller ones
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut lengthwise into slivers
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C olive oil
1 T soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 small tomato, chopped
1/2 of a red pepper, chopped
1/2 C chopped basil leaves
1/4 C chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1/3 C toasted pine nuts
1/3 C dried currants or golden raisins

preheat oven to 400.

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut long slits in the flesh and stuff with the garlic slices. Place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and cook for at least 1/2 hour or until collapsed. The remove and set aside to cool a bit.

In the serving bowl mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Then take the cooled eggplants and scoop out the flesh from the skins (along with the garlic) onto a cutting board. Chop coarsely then dump in the bowl with the dressing and mash with a fork.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients and taste for seasoning (you might want to add a dash of red wine vinegar if you like it a bit sharper). Refrigerate after making--it's good to make it a little in advance to let the flavors meld.

Serve with sliced baguette or as a spread on sandwiches.

Tantre farm share, week 14

Bottom row: Asian greens, two small bunches of chard, 3 yellow summer squash, 4 red torpedo onions, bunch of purple carrots, 6 big heirloom tomatoes, wee bunch of dill
Middle: 1 qt fingerling potatoes, eggplant, red peppers, assorted beets, 1 pt cherry and grape tomatoes
Top (looming over it all): a tremendous quantity of basil

Menu/preserving plan (We're headed out of town for part of the week so what doesn't fit into our dinner plans will get put into things that can be prepared and frozen. Beets and potatoes are going to be set aside since they won't rot right away):
  • All that basil will be made into pesto for freezing in ice cube trays.
  • The Asian greens will get sauteed with garlic, ginger and tofu. Add some rice and frozen dumplings and that's dinner!
  • I'll make a small batch of ratatouille with the eggplant, tomato, and summer squash (I like the Cook's Illustrated recipe) and will probably freeze that too.
  • I'm thinking that this recipe for swiss chard with anchovy butter would be good with a red quinoa salad that uses up some tomatoes and red onions.
  • The cherry tomatoes will be made into a tart with puff pastry, dry jack cheese and some mustard, probably based on this recipe. Since I'll have the oven on already I'll also roast the purple carrots and toss them with some dill and a little lemon juice.
  • Any leftover tomatoes that aren't consumed with a drizzle of balsamic, olive oil and a little fleur de sel will probably just get hacked up and frozen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Letting go

I'm really good at mad. But I'm not going to do mad right now.

I'm referring to this infuriating information: that until 12 months ago SIGG, which promoted itself as a safe alternative to Nalgene (and other plastic) bottles that contained the endocrine disruptor BPA, was actually lining their bottles with an epoxy that contained, you guessed it, BPA! They have changed the liner on new SIGGs (and were very quiet not to mention the BPA problem until the stock of the old BPA containing bottles were sold) and will give people who return their old SIGGs coupons for replacement bottles. But the whole shebang reeks of corporate coverup. The blogger Sarah Gilbert did a very nice job of detailing the sliminess--if you have the stomach to read it. (There's also a well-explained post from a store that pulled SIGGs.)

A parent on the wonderfully informative yahoo group list arborparents posted about this and another told me she received a postage paid return label. So I wrote to SIGG and asked for one because I don't want to spend a nickel more and they refused. Then I wrote to the CEO and mentioned that I knew they had issued postage paid return labels and would he authorize one.

He refused.

The CEO told me that he and his kids still drink out of the bottles with the BPA-containing liner (though he neglected to mention that his family also has gills...joking!). He offered me cleaning tablets (because I don't know how to wash out a water bottle? Huh? Or maybe it's something specially formulated to block the BPAs....) which probably would cost more than the return shipping I was requesting.

Clearly I have lived too long in a town where customer service and happiness is taken seriously. So ZingTrain, if you have anyone free to give a seminar, I know of a company that could really use your services! Or maybe the CEO, Steve Wasik, should read this book:
Yes, the title is Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000. You, dear reader, are one of my 3000.

All this crummy corporate bullshit is upsetting enough but here's the worst part: I was so pissed when I was receiving and responding to their e-mails that, when my girl critter wandered into my office requesting a cup of grape juice (which, she knows, is not hiding under mom's desk but located in the fridge; however, since I keep it in a heavy non-BPA leaching Frigoverre glass pitcher, she still needs me to pour it), I snapped at her. Actually I yelled. I was so pissed at SIGG that my shoulders were up around my ears and I looked like Nixon and I dare say I behaved like him too (treating those around me like crap, not the break-in part). And the little critter jumped. And that's just not right. (I went and apologized to her and told her that I wasn't mad at her, I was mad at the crummy company that made her dinosaur water bottle. She doesn't appear to be too traumatized by her mother's inability to compartmentalize her anger though I probably should add a few extra dollars to her college/therapy fund).

And that's when I realized that Steve and his crummy company were not worth it. Not worth the anger. Not worth pursuing a free shipping label on principle even though it means that someone sleazy is getting away with something.

So you know what? I'm going to try and breathe my way through this.

In one of my yoga classes, the teacher got us to assume a pose like a pretzel--I had trouble figuring out how my left arm was twisted around my right leg and how exactly I was able to see the sole of my left foot which normally isn't so close to my eyes but finally got into the pose. And once there she said: "Keep breathing. Remember if you can breathe through this pose you can breathe through pretty much anything that life throws at you." So. This isn't so bad. I can breathe through this.

So now I am turning to you folks for advice. To say that the water I drink from any SIGG will taste bitter now is an understatement. I refuse to have these bottles in my family's life any more. It just makes me too flipping mad when I see them and I don't think I want quite that much practice breathing.

I'll eat the postage to get these things out of the house and to make the company pay out for new ones because that's the only way to reach these people--through their wallets. But what should I do with the replacements since I can't stand the sight of them? (Hello Klean Kanteen! You'll be getting our business soon!) It'll be a set of 4 different sized bottles ranging from .4 L to .75 L.

I was thinking maybe I could donate the new ones somewhere. My kids' former preschool has an annual fundraising auction. Do you think anyone would buy a set of 4 new water bottles at an auction? That way at least the money I originally spent (over $50 agggggh!) would actually work its way to a good cause.

Any other ideas? Help me make this letting go as painless as it can be. Send me your suggestions. Send me your peaceful thoughts to help me forgive icky people for their ickyness.
And breathe with me.
And out.
And out.


We're back from our trip out to MA to visit my sister and the critters and I are now suffering from Aunty Anna, assorted amphibian and Basenji withdrawal.
Look at that sweet boy. I didn't mind one bit that he was blocking my book and I'm usually kind of grouchy when my book is blocked.

We've had an active and interesting summer up until last week, but the days we spent with Anna felt like the way summer is supposed to be--very relaxed, very hot, very fun. Maybe she was planning up a storm in the background, but I certainly wasn't and it felt like we flowed from one thing to the next: swimming and frog catching at Potter's Pond, eating cumin and yogurt marinated tofu and carrot salad, appreciating the air conditioner after a 94 degree day with 98 percent humidity, getting invited along to visit Anna's friend Rosie's magical family and swimming with a hoard of her nieces and nephews, jumping on a trampoline, and eating ice cream cones that dripped down our arms before we could finish them.
I'm pretty sure that this is what summer is all about.