monkeygreens


Kitchen Angels and Eggplant Stories
September 7, 2011, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home, How I got Here, Recipes and Ideas

My dear friend Mary was kind enough to pass along a great chard recipe this morning and so I decided to clue her in on what I am preparing for supper at home tonight.

MonkeyMan and I have never been nuts about eggplant. We used to grow them but rarely ate them as they just didn’t offer much pizzazz. My favorite recipe for them is my mothers Eggplant Parmesan but I was never great at reproducing it. I decided to stop being a wimp and make it, and now the Mister is in love and wants it every week.

I will not pretend that devout prayer isnt the primary ingredient in this recipe.

However, ‘the key’ (I cannot stress enough) is to PRESS THE EGGPLANT OVERNIGHT. Since my husband and I are on a tight budget, getting 2 meals out of one eggplant too is really thrifty and a great weeknight supper.

 1 large epplant sliced in ¼ to 1/8 inch thick rounds

1-2 cups marinara

1 garlic clove

Fresh basil (opt)

Extra virgin olive oil

½ cup ricotta cheese or ! cottage cheese put through the blender

1 bag of shredded Italian cheese

Real butter

2 eggs

Fresh tomato rings (opt)

1 roasting pan or brownie pan about 2-4 inches deep

Flour

 

The night before, slice up the eggplant and salt each slice. I recommend using coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt. My method to press is: I load a freezer bag with the eggplant, seal the air out, and place on a roomy shelf of the fridge with two cast iron pans on top. Or you can stack books on a plate (mom did that)

Why press the eggplant: eggplant contains a bitter juice that contributes to its often sinuey and rubbery texture; it also adds an acrid flavor that is not altogether pleasant. When you come back to the eggplant the next day, you will see an ugly puddle of water that looks like weak tea or garbage juice. Drain it all off. Even rinse the eggplant if you must.

The next day, pour some flour and salt and pepper in a paper bag and dust the eggplant while you heat olive oil (with the garlic clove) in a wide skillet on the stove (remove garlic before adding eggplant) and brown until light gold each piece on both sides; drain on paper towels. You can easily whisk up your ricotta, eggs and cheese (like for lasagna) while you fry the eggplant. If you think its too heavy add some milk.

When the eggplant is done, melt some butter in the roaster in your preheated 400 degree oven. Layer the eggplant – eggplant, marinara, ricotta (tomato if you are using it) and keep that up til everything is gone, then smother with remaining grated cheese and bake. I think at least 50 minutes is needed (I like crunchy cheese)

It should be crunchy outside and creamy inside. 

If I were going to eat anything as my last meal, it would be this, made by my mother, with a really nice glass of Pisano.

This may seem irrelevant to the recipe, but the other night I had a major meltdown missing my mom, and I bawled for about an hour or two. Performing this ritual not only reminded me how much I still miss her but how much of her I carry with me daily. For those who have not yet felt the loss of a beloved parent, please please take the time to listen to their stories, enjoy the food they prepare, and the wisdom they impart. Our bodies are only vessels to carry us through this fleeting journey, and yet what we do while we are here is everything. The yellowed pages of a cookbook, and the faded tears of memory may someday be all we have, unless we carry on the beauty of tradition.



The end of an era?
August 29, 2011, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I wrote this weeks ago and got too busy to finish so I am posting it now. Still relevant.

So its Friday — Activism Friday, and per usual I have oodles of topics I would love to cover but I got a little sidetracked — as one does when they are used to thinking on the abstract non-stop….well, that and the fact that I cant concentrate for beans…and I have the attention span of a gnat. A young, restless, very cranky and foot tapping gnat.

So here I was all ready with my 5 species that are facing extinction (wanna hint?? FROGS. why?? frog leg eating at an all time high– no I am not kidding how wild is that????) But alas, no Kermit-talk today. That is because as I was reeling on the concept that we are consuming frog legs at a more rapid rate than they can reproduce….I started thinking about a different kind of extinction.

This is about the extinction of humanity. I do not mean the human race. I am referring to the instinctual nature of man to care about his fellow man. To care enough to dedicate a portion of your life, your status quo, your desensitized not caring situation, into one where you sacrifice a bit of that comfort zone to become more involved in the planet, and its inhabitants, than you once were.

What made me think of this is actually an episode of the new Rosanne Barr reality show. I guess she lives in Hawaii now and farms and is kind of  a new age hippie. In any case, she just– out of the blue went out and bought this van and told her boyfriend and her son to go pick a bunch of veggies off their farm. She wanted to take them to the poor parts of town and hand them out for free.

A couple of things about this. Hawaii has one of the highest (if not the highest) child abuse rate in the United States. This is because the unemployment rate is astronomical. Things like unemployment contribute greatly to substance abuse and poverty. Ever watch Dog the Bounty Hunter? Pretty much everyone in Hawaii who hasnt scored a gig in the tourist biz is on ICE (super bad form of meth amphetamine). So– trust there are a lot of poor folk. And a lot of children that are not being cared for properly. A lot of people are really jaded about the homeless. I do not think they stop to consider how it would feel to be faced with that adversity themselves. And in this world right now, in America, with this administration, we have never been closer to it being a reality for ANY of us.

Roseanne’s kids were very cynical and discouraging. They told her she needed a vending permit (uhhhh duhhhh not to GIVE STUFF AWAY) and she said ‘This communist/ socialist dictatorship so called ‘America’ isnt gonna tell me I can’t give away free food!!!!’ Man, I loved that. We have actually gotten so poisonous as a society that doing good is viewed with more skepticism that doing bad!! WTF???  Speaking of which, its time for me to return to my worm-work and get my bills paid by prostituting myself to the man. Oh well…..at least I get to! And in a few hours I get to go home. I have a home, which is so much more than many can say. Life is good.

 



Batman
August 29, 2011, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home

Its been a while since I have been on here. ever had one of those stages of life where you just kind of float along, not really motivated by anything? That’s me right now. I think the maximum fortitude of my excitement threshold came into fruition Thursday when I heard that the classical public radio station I listen to was showcasing Placido Domingo in the opera version of Cyrano du Bergerac Saturday at 1pm, and then I promptly forgot to listen to it.

I did, however, shamelessly coerce my 20 year old godson into voting for RonPaul in the next election. “When is it?” He asked.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I am SO not afraid to corrupt the naive youth with my political brainwash. No Way🙂

But Mr. Monkey suggested I write about this next little life-happening thing, so I guess I can share. Last week I am getting ready for work (late as usual…ridiculously late) and I had just baby-gated the kitchen from the dogs, coffee in one hand —Whole Foods recycled bag of food for work in the other…and I cast a random eye over to Merlin, my man cat, who was gently patting something back and forth between his paws. They have this one toy they ADORE which is a little brown leopard print mouse…and they all play with it endlessly so –especially in my hurried state I assumed that was what it was. Except….it was larger. LARGER.

Despite my rush I wandered over….fears confirmed. It was a bat.

We have had, over the years, a real bat problem. Oh it super typical where we live. We live in the most beautiful neighborhood in our city. It’s all old homes and old money. Of course –we are poor, but I wouldn’t trade our location for anything in the WORLD ….it’s midtown so its urban, but oh what an oasis. The boulevards you see are absolutely gorgeous…in fact, I believe the Jack Nicholson/ Alexander Payne film ‘About Schmidt’ was filmed in our neighborhood. But bats adore old homes…they tend to be more organically built and house old crevices, high ceiling and large attics where they can roost. Likewise, we have loads of old trees and forage. We aren’t sure if the bats are in our attic ( too scared to check) or if they just get in when we let the dogs in and out but regardless its gross as Hell. This year hasn’t been that bad since the brown bat population was nearly destroyed by a moldy fungus that attacked the species. Since we got the twins (Merlin and Mouse) we have discovered that in addition to bugs, which they both hunt, Mouse is a bat-killing ninja. Her prowess is unbelievable, she can sniff them out, see them in the dark, and then she swiftly polishes them off like an assassin. We are fairly certain she took this guy out.

Oh he was big. Vomit inducing big. I stood frozen and my life rather flashed before my eyes, a bit like when a customer at work said ‘penis’ to me over the phone. I didn’t really know where to go with that, and I didn’t really know what to do about my fat rig-amortized friend on the floor either.

I grabbed a paper towel and whisked him off the floor and tossed him in the yard.I wanted my husband to see him later, which of course he did and then mocked me that the bat wasn’t big at all. Naturally.

 



and now for the bugs :)
August 9, 2011, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home

Roughly 2-3 weeks ago, on a Saturday night, Monkeyman and I were hanging out in our basement, watching Billy the Exterminator.  I could tell that the Mr. was getting restless and had something on his mind. He went upstairs for a moment and then came back down and said, “I wonder what kind of spider that is on the porch.”

Well gee that opens a can of worms, really. We don’t do much in the way of insect control on our porch. For one thing– word is out in the neighborhood amongst all the creepy crawlies that we got a lot of food for them to eat, and I am sure they also know we  do not spray, and we adhere to the laws of nature that bugs eat bugs and predators exist in our eco-system bla bla bla. Well, we perused the internet for days and nights trying to figure out what the heck this little guy was — he was genuinely so unusual. When we first found him he was about a millimeter long, white with a black stripe. We know now he/ she must have been a baby.

She is no baby now. The picture above is her now. She is about the size of a dime– maybe a bit bigger in the body– with legs outstretched about an inch and a half. She is pretty intimidating and not white at all but yellow. And guess was variety she is? A GARDEN SPIDER. Well, whaddya know. We named her Olivia and….I am attached😦 I kinda love her🙂

Onward and upward, Sunday I am in the pool — reallllllllllllllly rough day. Laying on my back, sun on my face, eyes closed. And I hear a ‘zzzzzzzzzzBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzhissssssssssssss.’

Moment earlier I saw this uber gnarly wasp in the yard, just going nuts on our sunflowers. I asked MM about it and he said it was cecade-somethingoranother that preys on cecades. It would have to this thing is huge. So of course I ask MM if they are a danger to people and of course he shrugs and I figure –well, if provoked right???

ZZZZZZZZZhsssssssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I look down at my upper abdomen –and there is an enormous, cecadekillerwhatever, bobbing his stinger up and down like he just can’t quite decide if he wants to plunge into me or not. I am worried because:

1. My swimsuit is white with black checks that could appear to him– locust-like.

2. I could not even know that I am allergic to this thing and have to go to hospital and then maybe be allergic to the anecdote and die a really ridiculous, painful, and embarrassing death — certainly closed coffin if I didn’t prefer cremation.

3. What if I am stung multiple times; what if the stings mame and or disfigure me?

4. I had a really awesome dinner planned and being stung would ruin my whole evening, not to mention ‘poolpartytime.’

So I followed what I found the most reasonable option, I went complete bat-ape-shit crazy, freaked out and started splashing the thing with huge handfuls of water to get it out of the pool. Result? Still alive — really mad. I kept up the ape-shit plan, which luckily did result in getting it onto the dirt under the pool, and started maniacally swatting it like crazy with my flip flop. Result: still mad, totally unscathed, clearly immortal and resistant to all methods of force. I quickly had to spring into KILL IT NOW mode. I have done this, once. To a bat. Maybe I will tell that story later.

So– I located a small stone and (still scared) placed the stone over the wasp UNDER my flipflop and proceeded to pound away. This did little or nothing but stun him, so then I started to bury him alive with big globs of mud. And then I went inside and told MM the story.

So much for my all creatures great and small earth mother vibe. I guess there is only room for one baby in the pool🙂

 



Blessings and Bugs; 3 parts
August 8, 2011, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home, Saving the Harvest, The Movement

A very unfortunate thing has occurred in my neck of the woods…that neck being the warm womb called the MonkeyHouse. My husband knows the wheres, hows, ins and outs…but the crux of the matter is….the majority of our collard plants….c’est morte.

Dead. It’s almost like it happened overnight, and yet…the foreboading of such fate has been with us all season. First it was far too cold, then too rainy, then entirely too hot. We couldn’t control the insects naturally, which meant– they were uncontrolled. And we missed more market days vending than ever before.

Did we get too big for our britches? We did amp up production on kale, and reduce the amount of chard we usually sell. Adjustments that are made annually to sufficiently respond to market demands. We did diversify our own crops that we grow for personal consumption much more, but that wasn’t it. For some reason, we may never know, God gave us an obstacle–a hurdle– to slow us down.

Friday evening when I cam home from work, MonkeyMan was completely submerged in the blues. Crestfallen. Bereft with despair. It was one of those moments  that happens, all the time, in a marriage. In a situation where you would otherwise feel totally helpless to do anything for the other person…you just pull it together. You have to because that is what you are there for, so emotionally you reach for that adrenaline shot and lift the car off the baby.

With my husband, a gentle and caring pep talk usually steers him right on track. We stood outside and lamented at our luck, the withered and decomposing plants, and fought for the courage to place the tragedy into Mother Nature’s hands.

Monkeyman forgot his phone Saturday, so when he arrived home I was surprised to see that he was laden with sacks of potatoes, cantaloupes, tomatoes, sweet corn….you name it. An abundance of wealth on a day of sorrow. Turns out, when the other vendors discovered our malady, they offered up encouragement to us…in the form of food. We spent all weekend putting up things for the winter and realizing that there really is a silver lining, especially when you aren’t expecting it. “In times of hunger, you offered me food.”

I am really proud of our community, and extremely grateful to be a part of it. These are people who have stepped outside the cold and ignorant realm of modern convenience, and into the heart of giving and sharing and helping. I realized that when you do good things, good things do happen to you, and when you treat your neighbors with respect and generosity, it is offered to you in turn.

We aren’t lost souls on a sinking ship. It may be easier to be cruel, and look the other way, but what if you just…..stopped? What if you woke up one morning and started all over again, looking people in the eye, smiling, and offering help and empathy where it is needed? Living a simple life can often be a life of love and joy, even in times of hardship.



Quacked.
August 2, 2011, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home

I was playing in my kiddie pool Sunday early afternoon (before I got a real nasty touch of the flu) soaking up some rays (umm getting sun-burnt) and I started getting …lonely.

My dogs didnt want to play in the pool, despite the scorching high temperatures. And it was soooooooooo fun and nice being in the cool water, splashing and looking up at the glorious butterflies and the light breeze running through the trees, and I decided…….

I want a duck.

MonkeyMan and I discussed this last year, when we began to read more and more about what prolific natural pest predators they are. Depending upon the varietal, you can up with a pet that not only sucks up all different types of bugs, slugs and worms, but also provides a very nutrient natural fertilizer.

And maybe if I worked a little of my animal loving magic…my new pet (or pets) would play in my pool with me. I had a pet duck as a child. It was a lovely little creature, and we had a special pool for him, and I loved my duck. We then acquired an additional dog (German short hair) the two beasts did not intermingle well, and we moved, so we released him into nature.

My husband thinks this is quite hilarious, but feasible, as long as I build the pen and undertake the up keeping. So– today I begin trying to learn (baby-steps) how to build a habitat that is winter-proof, and educate myself on breeds and care. If I decide to do this, I have chosen my breed:

 

 

 

This little guy is an Indian Runner. They are most remarkable as great egg layers, and they cannot fly, and they make good pets. They are also light-weight, and they run instead of wobble. Most notably they are skilled foragers, and prefer a natural grazing diet to one of say — feed, or corn. I do not intend to use these ducks for meat at all, mostly for pest control. I like the run-factor, since we do have two labs. At maturation, the duck looks more like this:

 

 

They are very vertical, no? So now that I have chosen a breed its time to study it, learn as much as I can, test myself…..

and then build the coop. I realize no one but my husband…and maybe the KingBee (will define who this character is later) read this so…this may be futile, but if anyone knows how to build a duck hutch, or any other helpful tips, please drop me a line! I need support with this endeavor. It may be all ducks all the time for a while in MonkeyGrrrl land….:)

Oh, and I have to find out if my body can digest duck eggs. I hear they can be a bit persnickity on the old tum-tum….so right now, I am trying to locate some eggs that I can purchase and cook for a little stomach science time, and then– forge ahead.



Fast Food
July 29, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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