Saturday, June 25, 2011

critter petting zoo

This is a great apartment - really it is, but seriously - this place is Critter Central.  After a generally blissful, critter-free existence for the last six years in our tiny apartment, it seems like we found us a wildlife reserve here and I'm wondering if that is one of the reasons for the exceptionally low rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in this part of town (I'm thinking the Meeting Place for the Socially Challenged across the street is another reason).  Presently, in addition to the fuzzy lump we actually want living here, we have one adorable but gotta-go mousy friend, a flock of fruit flies who are trying to hijack my wine (I've already explained to them that I work far harder than they do for my wine) and a spider that might have been helpful in getting rid of the flies if he weren't too darn lazy to build a small web.  Having not accomplished his purpose, Mister escorted our eight-legged free-loader out of our home.  Mister also set a trap for the mouse:

Yup.  A plastic box, set upside down and propped up by an old, empty jar that used to hold Alba facial moisturizer with a piece of cardboard acting as an appetizer plate for a Mouse-Feast of peanut butter.  I tried to tell Mister that this is not a cartoon, but he insisted it would work.  So twice now, the mouse has gone in there and won.  First time, he ran in, grabbed the PB and pulled it out with him before we had a chance to catch him - mouse 1, us 0.  Then, we set it up again because the mouse dropped the PB plate and after a long, patient, barely-breathing staring contest, the little bugger decided to press his luck.  Just as he made his move, I made mine...and Angst made some kind of clattering that made the mouse turn around and run away.  Mouse - 2, us - 0, Angst - in the 'dog'house.

We decided our little friend needs to hit the road.  There are just too many gruesome ways for him to die here and traumatize me in the process.  I would share some of those ways but you don't want to hear about them any more than I want to think about them and even less than I want to actually experience any of them.  Since part of dinner involved roasting, I checked the inside of the oven before preheating it.  Then it started to smell like burning, so I yanked open the door and peered inside with a flashlight, fully expecting to see something that would make dinner a moot point (for lack of appetite), but there was no mousy (thank heavens).  After dinner, we spent enough time waiting to catch the mouse that Friday night's post will have Saturday's date, so just remember, kids - I haven't slept yet, so it's still Friday.

Anyway, as I was coming home from work tonight, I got to thinking about a great many things, but the only one you're interested in is dinner.  Trust me.  I really thought it would be neat to make an entire menu from the cookbook my company is hawking.  Appetite for Reduction made it seem like "diet food" could always be a culinary treasure, but I'll be honest - despite my attempts to make these dishes sound fabulous, I'm a little less than impressed.  The only flavor most of the recipes I've made so far have had came from my own inability to put only 2 cloves of garlic into something or my enjoyment of tweaking flavor elements.  It's not all bad, necessarily, but I have definitely lost my excitement for this cookbook - the pictures look far more attractive and appetizing than the finished product tastes.  I still have a few recipes to go and I do intend to finish them, but what this is all building up to (fortunately) is that I improvised to such a point tonight that I could not say, in good conscience, that I actually followed the recipe for the White Bean Salad in the cookbook.  The reason this is fortunate is that it doubles the recipe fun!

I am not at all ashamed of how excited I was to use my new BBQ sauce, given to me by a member of our chefs' council.  I was a little worried about the heat, but it turned out to have just the right amount.  It's a bit tangy and neither sweet nor savory BBQ sauce, but it is certainly good and I would actually purchase it in a store if I could find it.

I decided to go for a southern-style meal, at least where the BBQ sauce is involved.  The "salad" ended up being relatively Mediterranean, but I think most of my salads either end up that way, or a mix of hippie-commune-meets-Neiman-Marcus-urban-legends, so no big surprise there. 

Roasted Veggies with White Beans
yields about 4 appetizer/side dish servings

1 pint grape tomatoes (organic, if you can)
1 lb asparagus (normally one bunch)   
 15 oz can of white beans (cannellinis were pretty darn good), drained and rinsed (do you really even need to say that anymore?)
2 Tbsp high-quality olive oil
1-2 tsp Mediterranean sea salt blend (to taste)
1 tsp red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Break the ends off of the asparagus stalks and slice into 1" pieces, on the bias if you want it to be pretty.  Slice the larger grape tomatoes in half diagonally and leave the little ones whole.  Drizzle asparagus and tomatoes with 2 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp of the salt blend to start, then toss to coat.  Roast for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now would probably be a good time to start the other half of the recipe, if you're making both (see recipe below).  Once the asparagus is beginning to shrivel a bit and the tomatoes are beginning to burst, remove from oven and add beans and as much as 1 more teaspoon of the salt blend, along with the red wine vinegar, and toss to coat evenly.  Allow to sit and cool while you prepare the po' boys.

Seitan-n-Slaw Po' Boys
serves 6, one po' boy per person

16 oz seitan in broth, drained and sliced very thin/shredded (baked seitan will not work here - I used Michael's Savory Seitan)
10 oz bag of confetti slaw (or other slaw)
2 Tbsp canola (or olive) oil, divided
1 Tbsp tamari/soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp all-natural, spicy BBQ sauce, divided
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (or dark agave nectar)
6 long sandwich rolls (about 6")

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large, deep skillet on medium heat.  Add confetti slaw, stir to coat with oil and then cover.  Allow to steam-fry 5-7 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.  Remove from pan and add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil and turn heat to medium-high.  Add seitan and stir to coat with oil.  Cover and cook until seitan begins to brown and oil has been absorbed - about 5-7 minutes more.  Once the seitan has browned to your liking, add about 2 Tbsp of the BBQ sauce and stir to coat the seitan evenly.  Allow to cook one more minute, then add the slaw and stir to coat everything with BBQ sauce, adding more 1 Tbsp at a time until all the seitan and slaw is well-coated in BBQ sauce.  Drizzle on the molasses/agave and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

If you'd prefer, you can heat the rolls in the oven - it should still be hot from the Roasted "Salad," so you won't need to heat it up.  Once they are warmed/toasted to your liking, slice lengthwise, taking care to leave a substantial "hinge."  Gently pile about 1/2 cup of the seitan-n-slaw mixture into the roll.

Serve with "salad" and enjoy!  You want pairings?  How about a nice Merlot-Tempranillo blend or South African Pinotage with dinner, and finish with a digestive of anisette, sipped slowly from a decorated cordial glass?

Bon appetit!
(can anyone translate that to Creole-French?)

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