Feeding the squirrels

My friend Judy feeds her squirrels peanuts. I feed mine onions. Why? Because they hate onions and I hate them. I’m not really feeding them, I am repelling them from places and things in my yard.

I had a large rotting onion and I chopped it up and spread it around their sexcapade area. Fer chrissake, in the spring they’re on a constant sex romp in the yard and I have to bear witness to the procreation of the next generation of my tormenters. This is not fair.

The chopped onions are pretty effective for a while. Ultimately they will disintegrate and the squirrels will be right back at it. I have more onions though.

Right about the time they’re showing their progeny around the yard pointing out the best spots for getting olives, peaches, grapes and how fun it is to bat the limes off of the lime trees, I will redouble my efforts. My fear is that they will develop a taste for them and then my onion crop will be in danger as well.

A little thanksgiving

My friend Judy the evil squirrel feeder (also Judy of the BBQ sauce recipe) had a birthday recently (same day as Joni Mitchell) and since Judy and I often had had Thanksgiving together but won’t this year, I made her a mini Thanksgiving meal. Chicken thighs, stuffing, honey/dill carrots, mashed potatoes. Making things I’m accustomed to making for large crowds in a small format is a challenge. I love a challenge.

And who doesn’t love stuffing and mashed potatoes?

Coincidentally I am making her BBQ sauce tomorrow for my nephew who requested it for his birthday.

The successful harvest

Something is not right when you live in the the northern midwest and your most successful harvest is limes. And you know what’s not right? Squirrels. Yes, Judy, squirrels.

They ate every single peach and olive but won’t eat the damn limes although from time to time they do dislodge them from the tree in an attempt, I am sure, to infuriate me. Of course, nearly anything can infuriate me these days so maybe that’s just me.

My lemon and lime trees took a quick frost and I had to move them into the green house before they dropped their leaves and fruit. I picked most of the limes but the lemons were not ripe. I’m hoping for lemonade at Christmas.

In the meantime, under the watchful eye of The Royal Indian Mounted Police, I made lime pickle with all of limes the squirrels could not be bothered to bat around. It was just in time too since I only recently ran out of the lime pickle I made 2 years ago. They need a few weeks to funkify. So time will tell, in more ways than one.

Outwitting the squirrels

Of course I didn’t.

I really don’t know why I put grapes in my garden in the first place. I never buy them or eat them. But there is something about the taste of a fresh-off-the-vine, fully ripe concord grape. There are few other tastes that can have that kind of impact in my mouth and mind. I imagine a lot of it has to do with childhood when I was a always starving to death and scrounging through neighbors’ yards eating things I knew were edible and possibly some things that weren’t. The concord grapes that grew on the fences that separated farm fields were an absolute taste sensation to me.

When I put the grapes in, not to mention peaches and apples I didn’t realize the extent to which squirrels would have the upper paw, so to speak. In the past few years I had not been able to have any grapes from these vines because, of course, squirrels.

I’m not sure how this particular bunch got left on the vine. The squirrels have eaten every single one of my peaches, apples and yesterday, olives. Raw olives taste like Satan. But they stripped every single one of the off my tree in one day. Like they just decided OK today’s the day. When I saw them leaping about in my little olive tree my first thought was that they were having their usual sexcapades but when I went out there because it was looking way too manic from my view on the couch I saw that in fact they were eating olives. And without a martini in sight.

But back to the grapes. I used the prickly raspberry cane trick that did not work on the peach tree or tomatoes. And I really had no reason to think it would here either but there it was in all its splendor, one single cluster of grapes, which makes it sound more fulsome than it was. A pathetic, partly ripe, meagre bunch of ratty grapes. Maybe the squirrels thought it wasn’t worth the effort. My first thought was to leave them to ripen a bit but I’be been fooled with this before. Raspberry canes in the peaches, apple (there was only one in the end) or tomatoes had not worked. I picked the grapes immediately.

I was not mistaken about the wallop of flavor. I’m trying to decide if all that work was work the 2,3 grapes I got.

Don’t think I’m not blaming you, Judy

Pecan pumpkin pie

I’m not
sure what possessed me to think there was such a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever
heard of anyone making this but when I asked the google for a recipe, (click here if you need to see it) Nestle’s, I
think, came up lickety split. Normally I wouldn’t use a recipe from a
manufacturer but the recipe seemed pretty straightforward, I had all the ingredients and so I went with it. Purchased pie crust and all. Pumpkin on the bottom, pecan on the top. 

The problem with it is that it is neither one thing nor the other, and cutting through the sea of pecans makes for a sloppy wedge of pie. I served it with “lots of whipped cream” as my mother requested. Neither my mother or Judy complained. It was good, but I wasn’t sure if I was eating pecan or pumpkin pie.

Irish fruit bread

I am an absolute sucker for this kind of thing. My father was too. Judy made it for Thanksgiving. And I kept the leftovers. It’s good as it is, with lots of butter, but this stuff makes incredible toast for cheese. I like it particularly with bleu cheese. Ironic since Judy doesn’t like bleu cheese. Also ironic that I cut it on a bread board she gave me 20 years ago.

Thanksgiving for 3

It’s a far cry from the Thanksgivings of my youth when both sides of my family would descend on my parents’ home, grandparents, aunts, uncles, complete strangers, priests, nuns, and we’d somehow fit around the dining room table. I had the hated task of getting all the chairs. Sometimes we had to sit on the radiator it was so crowded. My mother would be up at 5 in the morning making the dinner. Her back to us at the stove as we came down for breakfast, making stock, peeling potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, chopping the gizzard. I don’t recall that anyone every brought anything. Maybe pies. I don’t know how she did it. It was hard enough for 3.

All of my sisters were otherwise engaged this year so it was just me and mom. I invited my friend Judy, recently relocated from Portland. Making just enough for 3 is a lot harder than you’d think. Everything was pretty much right off my mom’s playbook. Green beans and mushroom casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy and pecan/pumpkin pie. The latter was not anything my mother ever made. In fact, until I had the idea to make it and googled it, I didn’t realize it existed. The weak link was the turkey. I don’t know how you ruin turkey but I did. It was just plain nothing. The green bean casserole made up for it.

With beets comes candied walnuts

I got some beets from my CSA, Pam, and made a beet salad with bleu cheese and boston butter lettuce. It required candied walnuts. I looked up the recipe and it seemed remarkable easy. And it was. What is not remarkably easy is cleaning that caramel off your utensils. Wooden spoons have a deep affinity for the damn crap. It took less than 5 minutes to make them, and nearly 20 minutes to get the hardened caramel off the pan and spoon. 

Still, the salad was excellent. Well, except that Judy doesn’t like bleu cheese. Fer chrissake.

Rethinking food decoration

Jacques Pepin is forever putting mint on desserts, sprigs of sage on platters of duck, lemon wedges on god knows what, and it always makes the dish look so much nicer. Martha does this, as does that menace to society, Lidia Bastianich, tucking wads of basil into piles of chicken, and so do many of the other celebrity chefs (hate the idea) that I watch in my spare time instead of, say, cleaning the house. But on Cook’s Complicated, er, Country and America’s Test Kitchen this seems to rarely happen. And as I am more of a Cook’s Complicated kind of guy I don’t do this all that much. Not that I don’t think about it. It’s just that usually when I am about to serve a meal my mind is on other things, not the chopped almonds I have in my mis en place. Only to find it as I am cleaning up and toss it.

The other night my friends Judy and Susan came over for dinner and I made that berry pie, yet again, and I had leftover strawberries and extra time on my my hands (not to mention fresh mint on my balcony). I sliced up a strawberry and put it and a fruity sprig of mint on top. 

The thing is that the strawberry is lovely. But the cooked berries look pretty lifeless. It tasted good so that’s all I care about and it more or less relieves me of the burden of garnishing food in the future. Not that I won’t still find a small bowl of chopped chives or a chiffonade of shiso leaves as I am cleaning after dinner from time to time.

Leftover cranberry relish ideas

I made cranberry chutney. I thought I’d made just enough for 3 but there was plenty leftover. It’s not that it wasn’t good, in fact it was great. But you just don’t use that much of it. My friend Judy actually asked for extra on her leftover plate. I tossed the rest.