Monday, June 11, 2012

Notes from a domestic goddess

Saturday's weather was heinous. Simply heinous. Wind, rain, cold. It felt like November 9 instead of June 9.

There was absolutely no reason to be outside, except for a quick walk-through of the one-day Manito Plant Sale in search of hydrangea and Japanese painted fern for The Trouble Spot. (More on that later.) Mission accomplished, I joined a sea of gardeners in line to pay -- and to be showered upon as the canopied shelters regularly and relentlessly dumped their build-up of rain on unsuspecting shoppers.

Now THAT was kind of funny.

Once home, plants safely secured, I vowed not to go out again and so turned my attention to matters domestic. Cleaning the bathrooms did not sing to me. Nor did washing the kitchen floor. I summarily dismissed anything involving a dust rag, broom or mop.

Instead, I decided to cook. All afternoon.

Chicken stock from scratch. There. is. nothing. better. No photo because I am horribly lazy and don't do all the skimming of foam and whatnot that results in a beautiful, clear broth. Instead, my stock always looks a little like a murky, albeit delicious, kettle of dish water. Makes you want to dig right in, doesn't it?

Greek chicken salad. Where there is chicken stock, there is usually chicken meat, specially if you cheat and buy a rotisserie chicken at Ye Olde Grocerie Store, which I did this week in the interest of my sanity.

And I made up a recipe, which I'm happy to share with you.

Greek Chicken Salad

@ 3 c chopped cooked chicken
1 small Persian cucumber (or young, tender cuke), seeded but skin on, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 c halved marinated artichoke hearts
2 T capers (a swoosh of brine is ok)
2 t lemon zest (save that lemon)
1 T finely, finely diced shallots
1 T fresh chopped dill
Optional:  1/4 c toasted pecans, rough chopped (I know, I know. Toasted pecans are totally not Greek. That's just the way I roll.)

Toss the above together and make the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Dressing

4 T Greek-style feta dressing (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
2 t light mayo
1 t fresh chopped dill
1/2 t olive oil
1/2 t lemon zest

Whisk till smooth and toss with chicken salad mixture.

Serve with a little chunk of lemon in case you want a little extra zing.

Sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut. The May issue of Sunset Magazine has a recipe for Quick Sauerkraut that is bomb (if you like sauerkraut, that is -- I realize it is something of an Acquired Taste) and does not involve letting cabbage rot ferment in a crock for months. If you are of the sauerkraut persuasion, try it. It's scrumptiously crunchy, savory and, best of all, simple.

Have I mentioned how much I love simple? And caraway seeds? Not necessarily in that order?

Balsamic vinegar reduction. We live on this stuff. It flows in our veins. Oozled over fresh tomatoes during the summer, oozled over a beautiful steak, well, whenever. Oozled over pretty much anything with the possible exception of breakfast cereal (that would be just plain weird) and you've got yourself a tasty little condiment. I've been tweaking my version -- and have backed off to three parts balsamic vinegar to one part honey, but still. . . . it's straight-up redonkulous.

Hummingbird nectar. I make my own because the dye in the red stuff you buy at the store doesn't agree with our little fine, frenetic feathered friends. It's very simple -- one part sugar to four parts water. Heat in a sauce pan till the sugar is completely dissolved. Boom. Hummingbird nectar.

But talk about weird science. This weekend, I used organic sugar, which has a slight brown tint. As a result, my batch of nectar came out looking a little golden. . . and vaguely resembling, well, pee. I will spare you the pictorial detail.

Doesn't seem to bother the hummingbirds one bit. But. I wonder what the neighbors think?

You know what? Domestic goddesses really don't care.

P.S. If you want to vicariously experience the anguish of publishing a first-time novel, hop over to my friend sporter's new blog, Slow Read to a Sunburn. Good times, good times.

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