Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Memories

Making Memories

Vegetable beef soup has been on everybody's menu lately. Nothing goes better with a wintery-mix than a big pot of soup. If you haven't already satisfied your comfort food cravings, you're in luck: the meteorologists are predicting more of the same.

I've been at home in Galax for the last couple of months. The first week it snowed just enough to give everything a good covering. The wind blew, the temperatures dropped and everything froze right where it stood. It was like a time warp for me. The roads were slick and a little dangerous, so I shifted into four-wheel drive and headed to the grocery store for the necessary ingredients: stew beef, onions, celery, carrots, canned tomatoes, potatoes, and my frozen vegetables of choice. By the time I got home it was already mid-day, and I knew the beef needed to be stewing to be tender by dinnertime.

I was moving around the kitchen pretty quickly when Mama pulled out her pressure cooker. I owned a pressure cooker once in early marriage, but was so fearful of its energy that I sold it in a yard sale. Mama is fearless, as were my grandmothers. She seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, roughly chopped some celery and half an onion, and added it all to the pot with beef broth and a good amount of butter and brought it up to a simmer. She clamped that lid down like she's done hundreds of times before, stuck the jiggle thing (pressure gauge) on and turned up the heat. When it started jiggling, she turned the heat down and let it cook gently for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile the smell of our evening meal filled the house and brought back so many memories of years gone by: snowy days playing outside until every pair of gloves and all my socks were icy wet; being pulled all over town on the sleigh hitched to Daddy's German Shepherd, Flint; having to be 'swept' clean of snow by the back porch broom before entering the warm house that smelled of soup—those were the days, the really wonderful days of my winter childhood. The memories came flooding back as that pressure cooker jiggled on the stove.

After the first few weeks, our soup started coming in a different way: it was delivered by our wonderful friends and neighbors in big containers, with cornbread wrapped separately for whoever needed a comforting, sustaining meal.

All this vegetable soup and cornbread sustained us, and Daddy loved it. It was probably the very last thing Daddy really enjoyed eating.
Perry, Daddy, Goose, Papa: he gave us all the tools to carry on with a great life. Now it's up to us.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let's Have Brunch!

Tuscan Eggs on Toast with Pesto
Eggs Poaching in Tomato Sauce

What's for brunch on a dreary weekend?
We had eggs poached in a very basic tomato sauce, covered with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, and served on a piece of artisan whole grain toast with pesto. Add the Sunday paper, or even your favorite Sunday morning TV (we enjoyed Joel Osteen this morning) and the day doesn't seem quite so dreary anymore.

Tuscan Eggs with Pesto Toast

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 T freshly chopped parsley
2 (15 oz.) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 eggs
6 pieces of prosciutto
6 pieces of fresh mozzarella
6 pieces of artisan whole grain bread
Pesto for toast
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish

Add olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Then add parsley, salt, sugar and tomatoes (juice and all). Stir and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Next, push away a little area in the tomato sauce and break an egg into it. Repeat with the other eggs, cover the pan and simmer until eggs are cooked to your preference. Cover egg with a piece of prosciutto and mozzarella and a little pinch of chopped parsley, and cover again until cheese melts.
Slice bread, toast, and then spread with pesto. Top with a little fresh parmesan.
To serve, place an egg and some extra sauce on each piece of toast.