Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Nana and Papa missed

My parents were supposed to come for a visit this week. Dad, aka Papa, was slated to spend two days in town, while Mom, aka Nana, was going to stay longer to watch Sam, thus freeing me up for some serious house and garden work. Alas, the flights didn't work out, so they are still in SF, and Sam and I continue to battle things out on our own in Seattle. To add insult to injury, the Fates smote me with sour weather. Is it almost June or not? Curses. Being indoors with a mischievous (read: delightfully curious) toddler can drive even the most patient of nuns to drink. I've been having my own tipples this week.

Another crying shame about them not making it is the now complete waste of a fabulous menu. Highlights include artichokes with bagna cauda, barbecue pork, crab cakes, and a chickpea ragu with sausage. I hit my new Jacques Pepin cookbook hard while deciding on my dishes. JP is my father's culinary hero ... come to think of it, my mother would have been the one enjoying the dishes, since Dad would have already left. I know; you're thinking, Jen, you can still make all these fabulous things, take photos, and tell us all about them. And this is incentive to continue as planned, dear readers, it is.

And yet.

I have a toddler. These meals take time and require someone to watch the boy. I suppose Elmo has watched him occasionally ... but I don't wish to rely on E too often. Although Sam can count to 14, and I didn't teach him that. Thank you Sesame Street.

By the time I got the news that they definitely weren't coming, I already had all of my ingredients for Tuesday's dinner. So, onward.
Orecchiette (or, rather, the pasta I had on hand) with cauliflower and croutons. The recipe is from the May edition of Bon Appetit. The magazine focused on a few countries and created menus with expert, native input. The most attractive to me was the Italian (Puglian) menu, so I chose a couple dishes (originally, I thought I would make four or five, but realized that I was only cooking for four, so I should just settle down). I think this pasta is something that would be thrown together, perhaps at the end of the week, with leftover veggies and old bread. I have made a couple recipes like this with pasta and garlic croutons or breadcrumbs. So good. The "dressing" is olive oil and anchovy paste. Add some Pecorino and Parmesan and parsley - minding your P's - and you are good to go. I opted for the broccoflower, as you can see, instead of cauliflower because I wanted to and it was on sale.
Who can resist a whole fish? I don't know when certain fish are in season. And I don't know which fish are the best to get when they aren't local. These are bass, but they are from Taiwan. I paused before I got them, but went ahead noting that they were fresh, blah blah. I got them at Uwajimaya, of course, and I have decided that I will only shop there on Tuesday mornings and with Sam. I have mentioned before that Tuesday is their senior discount day and Sam is an elderly person magnet. He has had members of the older set speaking to him in several languages on any given Tuesday at U. This is in contrast to the parking booth guy who thinks that Sam is ill because he is so blond and pale. I tried to explain Scandinavian coloring to this Ethiopian man, but something was lost in translation. "He sick? He so white." Yeah. It's natural, really. Anyway, this particular Tuesday was the best ever! We walk in to our usual smiles and waves in the produce section and at the butcher counter. And then! Fish counter! Bam! Asian Grandpa is there again and comes out to poke Sam and get in his face. Thank goodness this makes Sam laugh and not scream because Asian Grandpa then gives Sam an enormous lump of crabmeat! This is from the $24/lb. case. I hold it in front of Sam, as my mouth waters. AG then gives Mommy some, too. Sam poo-poos his and Mommy scores two chunks of sweet sweet crab. But AG doesn't stop there: "Does he like shrimp?"

Is this the chasm in toddler eating culture? Compare what Japanese two-year-olds eat to American. Let's say American kids who have a parent that cooks. I have a feeling they are eating fish and pickled things and slurping noodles. And then there's Sam. I make Sam his own meal because, in my experience, he doesn't eat what I make for Josh and me. I want him to eat something other than Cheerios. But, what if it's just a war of attrition that I am refusing to fight? What I mean is that if I serve him normal homemade, wholesome, tasty food every night and allow him to turn his nose up, will he eventually give in and eat his artisanal pizza instead of chicken nuggets? When will he say yes to coq au vin? I keep thinking that the magical age is two because that's when I go back to work and will only have time for one dinner that he and I will eat together at the table. I'll be damned if I'm going to make two different meals, do all the cleanup, wrestle a toddler into the bath, and then grade papers. No way.
So, anyway, the trip to U was awesome and Asian Grandpa told us to call him that, and the guy with the cross-eye yelled that AG was going to scare Sam, and it was all fun and games. I was so glad that I ordered whole fish because the quiet one took a while to scale and gut, thus leaving more time for all of that other stuff.

I pan sauteed the bass (after a dusting with flour) to get a nice crust on the skin (yummy), then stuffed them with garlic and parsley and lay them on a bed of fennel, red onion, tomatoes and oil-cured olives (I found the last jar at QFC - bring back the oil-cured olives!). It was good but really needed lemon to complete it. Maybe I'll do it again when Nana and Papa finally make it up.


  1. I hope we can have the same menu in June. Really looks yummy. Mom