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.



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.



Bless this Mess
July 15, 2011, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home

Last night I was taking some vegetables bits out to our compost heap, which MonkeyMan built in the far back end of our yard. Its discreet, and functional (aside from the dogs occasionally trying to eat from it– blecht) and from it I got a real good look up at the house.

I adore our home. Its spacious, old, rustic, and luckily — MonkeyMan has allowed me to decorate it just to my specifications — so its very ecclectic and shabby chic. We have the same taste in that respect.

When I came back into the kitchen, my husband was making us dinner and the cats were playing on the floor, the dogs sprawled out relaxing, happy to have us home. I told him how much I love our house, how I really do consider it my dreamhouse, and he kinda looked at me like I had antenna but that is ok. This morning when I came into work I was a little bummed because he is at home cutting collards for market tomorrow and I sort of wanted to stay home too. That made me begin to think of blessings, and the things in life I am so grateful for.

If certain legislatures gain heft, our country could be in a position to severely restrict the amount of freedoms we Americans have to grow our own food. That scares me half to death. It means that the way that my family live could be in serious jeopardy, and more importantly, that the liberty we enjoy to eat healthy food could be stripped away. Depending upon the government to feed us is a devastating proposition, and we have never been more in danger of it becomming a reality.

I do not consider the right to choose local, chemical free, naturally grown food a priviledge, I consider it a right. That means that I while I am no less thankful for it, I believe that I should unquestionably be given the option to produce what nourishes my body. But that also got me to thinking about how fortunate I feel to be in a moment where that right is being reserved. We are in a moment right now –where we can CHOOSE correctly. We are not forced to eat genetically modified, chemically laden poison. And yet– how often do Americans choose to do — just that?

I cannot begin to go into the struggles I experience daily with trying to find ways to get this message across. MonkeyMan and I have endless discussions on why it is so difficult for some people to see the importance of this issue. And yet, those of us living this type of life, a life centered around healthy food and nourishing our communities have no choice but to spread the word. Education is the key. I am not afraid of annoying anyone with the facts that support my opinion, and I relish that I have the freedom to do so.

It is not with bittersweet sadness that I look upon my home and wonder when the sanctity of my freedoms will be stolen, it is with zealous fight. My husband is at our home right now, our sanctuary, living the words I speak to you now. It is not an easy life toiling the soil, especially in the city where your endeavor is uncommon, and at times even frowned upon or ridiculed. We have been called hippies, and dirty, and extremist, and even crazy. I respect the right of those adverse opinions to be expressed freely for we will never change.

And perhaps someone who never thought about the food they ate before, maybe they will come to the Farmer’s Market tomorrow and happen upon my husband. He will tell a tale of collards, and they might buy some and take them home. It fills my heart with joy to see parents buying our leaves to feed to their families. I see the children of our future and I know eating these fresh natural vegetables now will impact their future. Home can be a house, but it’s love can also be extended to the world in the little things that you do. That is what our crops mean to us, and they signify the gratitude we express to share them with our community, and to bring a little of our home to your table.



My Blue Hawaii
July 11, 2011, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Home Sweet Home

I honestly cannot complain about this weekend, and yet I am afraid I still have a little touch of the blues. It might have dissapated in the last couple of days (in fact I am sure that it did, there was much mirth and activity around the garm) yet I still feel disjointed and somewhat sad. I really hope that it isnt the research on eco issues of note that is stirring up feelings of hopelessness and despair, or my fear that our country is in true peril of losing its democracy in favor of power hungry dictatorship. I just kinda have this little nagging ‘meowwwwwww’ that is making me feel sluggish and yucky.

In direct contrast, Friday night …despite the work that went into prepping for Farmers Market, we finished all of our tasks early enough to drag ourselves to bed early, laden with big bowls of jalapeno mac and cheese, and fall asleep watching tv. Saturday, MonkeyMan had banging success at the market, and as usual came home loaded with fresh local goodies to feed the week. The real high point (for me) were three ripe peaches he scored from a local trusted vendor, signaling one of my all-time favorite things about summer — fruit.

Yesterday, as I do most Sundays, was finish up chores and get ready for the week. This usually means cleaning and cutting local lettuce for our lunches, baking something if needed, and tidying up the kitchen. MonkeyMan was pulling our turnips and putting up leeks again, and it was a very hot and sticky day at the garm. Too hot to mow the lawn. Since our brown furry beasts, Dante and Lady, were outside all day, my husband filled our kiddie pool for Lady to wade in. Granted sometimes she views it as just one big water dish– but either way its super cute. Ironically, Dante is afraid of water.

This is terribly unusual for a labrador. It is genetically ordered on their hard-drive to love water, naturally know how to swim, and be adept at retrieving object from the water. We aren’t certain how this fear came to Dante, but he can’t seem to shake it. This was evidenced through a hilarious story told to us by our breeder a few years ago.

The MonkeyMan and I had a family reunion to attend (his family) in Colorado and we were unable to take the dogs, so our breeder offered to kennel them for us during our vacation. She lives on a farm out in the Iowa countryside. Unfortunately, Dante suffers from ear infections, and water irritates them and allows the bacteria to grow, but….our breeder, D, decided to take all the dogs swimming. In a FARM POND 😦 Naturally we didn’t find out about this until after the fact.

In the dog kingdom (or, I should say ‘queendom’) females are the aggressors and dominant. Lady is no exception to this rule. Despite her petite stature and demure attitude, she is very confident and in control of most situations. Her strong side is usually triggered by competition, and a fine example of this is any struggle over food or an object. D’s objective in taking the dogs — all of her dogs-to the pond was to exercise them and also do a little training, so she also brought along some dummies. Fabric or rubber oblong dummies are used in dog-training to teach retreiving, and sometimes also to acclimate a dog to a particular scent, like duck or pheasant.

When the dogs got to the water they all dove in happily except for Dante, who did a dance on the shore, happy to watch from afar. D flung a dummy into the water, and promptly Lady lunged for it, as did another female. A snarling, hissing, fang-baring fued ensued between Lady and her opponent. Dante barked away and shuffled nervously at the water’s edge, torn between his fear of water and loyalty towards his sister.

Yesterday….I don’t know if it was my well-buried funk or the beauty and heat of the summer day, but I actually went into the house, changed into my old lady bathing suit, and SAT in the pool. After I actually let myself submerge into the refreshing cool hose water, I lay legs dangling over the side in total bliss, forgetting what a spectacle I was making for the neighborhood, until I heard the shouts of my next door neighbor calling his dog. When I opened my eyes I saw the look of complete amazement and utter horror as he drank in my chubby, ghost white, almost forty ass wallowing in that bright blue plastic baby pool. I erupted with laughter at how he must have thought I had finally lost my mind, and how I was enjoying myself more than I have in months…..just doing something completely simple, and utterly out of the ordinary.