Coffee and Plantains

Coffee and Plantains

With an abundance of caution, we have postponed our planned trip to Monterey. This is a disappointment, both for us, my father and brother, but with the rising specter of the Corona virus prudence dictated that this trip should be delayed. We were going to go to Monterey this week, flying through San Jose, which could have been problematic all on its own. Fundamentally though, it seemed that undertaking this trip now, would needlessly endanger my family and us. The partially muzzled government warning to senior citizens like us about air travel, tipped the balance for this decision. Our next planned opportunity for a California visit is at the beginning June. We’ll be driving on that trip.

I guess that I’ll be milking the photos from our last trip to the Virgin Islands for a little while longer. On our last day there, we cooked plantains. The ones that we bought there were still pretty green, but on this last day, it was a now or never time. Peeling these green “bananas” was difficult, but we managed. We nuked them a little and then fried them in a lot of oil. After salting, they had the same consistency as do home fries, but with a definite banana-like flavoring.

We enjoyed this tasty morsel on our Air B&B’s back deck, where we breakfasted most mornings. This secluded place was arguably the best part of our lodgings. It overlooked an overgrown yard that was surrounded by trees. We saw quite a few tropical birds while sitting there and sipping our coffee.

I cooked plantains again, after we had returned to Saint Louis, but even though these were riper than the first ones were, they didn’t turnout quite as well the other ones did. I suspect that the problem was that I chose a can with too many ridges on its bottom, to squish the plantains. I’m not discouraged though. Anne found a NYT’s recipe for a more elaborate plantain based dish. Called Pastelón, it is a casserole dish of Puerto Rican origin. It sounds sort of like lasagna, with the plantains substituting for the pasta.

Continuing with the idea of an abundance of caution, we plan on dining in more now, than eating out. Spicing up the menu with dishes like this ought to go a long way towards relieving any menu monotony. Besides a lifestyle change like this could lead to far-reaching and permanent ramifications.

Unsurprisingly, this epidemic has in-addition to hosting viruses has also been a boon for hosting internet memes. Most of these memes involve the adaptation of something akin to Lady Macbeth’s fixation with washing her hands, “Out, damn spot! Out.” Examples include mottos like, “Wash your hands like you just sliced up jalapeños and now you have to change your contacts.” or “Wash your hands like you just lubed your bike chain, while wearing white jeans.” My favorite is derived from Neil Diamond’s popular song, Sweet Caroline:

Diamond: Hands,
CDC: Yes, wash them for at least 20 seconds.
Diamond: touching hands,
CDC: No! Please don’t touch hands!
Diamond: reaching out…
CDC: Avoid that, too!
Diamond: touching me…
CDC: Oh, Hell!
Diamond: Touching You!
CDC: We’re all doomed

Signs of Spring Global Warming

Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, signaling that we will have an early spring this year. While winter isn’t supposed to be immediately over then, you wouldn’t have known it with the weather. It was a brilliantly bright day that arrived after so many cloudy ones. The mercury rose to 70 °F and I kept questioning my judgement, for not having put on shorts for the day.

We went to the gardens. The orchid show was on. Always, a mid-winter treat. Its fragrance made Anne’s nose tickle, but it was too nice a day, to tarry long inside. We walked the garden’s grounds. Almost all of the Christmas decorations have been put away and with the beds all turned for winter, there was little in the way of vegetative activity going on. Still, some of the shadows from the leafless trees were interesting and if you looked closely, one could find signs of spring. Witch Hazel blossoms are always an early indicator and seeing them was no surprise, but seeing them being pollinated by honeybees on Groundhog Day is a first. Later, in the Japanese Garden one of the turtles that live in that garden’s large pond, had pulled itself out of hibernation and was sunning itself on a rock. It was the only one we saw and was probably left wondering if it had shown up too early for the Super Bowl party.

After the garden, we headed over to South Grand. Looking for a late lunch, we ended up trying a new place, at least for us, Brazilia. They were serving a buffet, which we ended up partaking of. Our waiter came by, first with a big skewer of beef and then later with skewered pineapple. Each time he would hack the food off the skewer with a machete. We ate too much. Afterwards, we walked up and down the street, window shopping. There were many new shops to see and plenty more new restaurants yet to visit. The city’s investment in this ethnically diverse neighborhood looks to be paying big dividends.

Home again, we settled in for the night. There was no need for dinner or even Super Bowl snacks, after our large late lunch. Anne watched the Super Bowl, while I watched the Outlander series. I’m all caught up now, for this show’s new season debut, later this month. That’s the news, from Saint Louis, Illinois. 😉

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

And so, I’m back. Back from outer space. With that sad look upon my face, but I will survive. Sorry for taking that mini-blog vacation for the last few days, but I hope that you enjoyed the picture show. We are back in Saint Louis now. Anne, Dan and I, having driven yesterday across the foggy Midwestern plains. The new Toy Yoda handled like a dream. The Force was definitely with us. David had jetted off to Rochester the day before. He is spending New Years with Maren’s family. With his new job, he has limited vacation time. Technically he is a writer now too. I guess you could say that I am also technically a writer, but don’t say it very loud or too often. It might go to my head. Britt lands in the Lou today. Dan will pick her up in his “new” Prius. Before Dave took off, Anne and I and the boys luncheoned at Zola Bistro, which is across Washtenaw from Chez Harry’s place. Both Anne and I had the pictured Shakshuka. Zola was a very impressive establishment, in an interesting, if too crowded upscale strip mall. It came complete with a My Urban Toddler store, for future yuppies of America. The next day, on our way out of town, Jane joined us at Mark’s Mid-Town Coney Island for more conventional breakfast fare. There, I think that I am all caught up on all the news that you need-to-know. I’m ready to slide into 2020.

Somoas

Homemade Samoas Cookies

Jingle bells, Santa smells, ah hell, bah humbug!

I slaved, literally slaved, over a hot stove, to make these imitation Samoas cookies. They may be homely, as well as homemade, but they tasted finer than those much more manufactured Girl Scout originals. Think of theirs as attack of the clones and mine as true Jedi warriors. Available in Star Wars themes? Not.

Imagine molten caramel and bubbling hot, boiling chocolate, all layered with toasted coconut on top. Double boiled, because, heaven forbid, you can’t scorch your sweets. And as I learned after snapping my first two donut shaped wafers:

If the caramel-coconut mixture thickens too much at any point while pressing it onto the cookies, return it to the double-boiler and warm it until it’s spreadable again.

That was an understatement. Spreading caramel is best done directly from its molten cauldron, preferably with a too hot to handle metal knife. Otherwise the stuff will freeze mid-spread.

Making this “easy” to create recipe was way more difficult than advertised, but that’s not my main complaint, not by half. Its purported preparation time was less than twenty minutes. The seven pictured cookies represent just one hour’s production rate. I made 35 cookies. Which means I performed five hours worth of backbreaking labor and I now have the sore back to prove it.

Still, I persisted. All of this work was for a Christmas cookie party that we annually attend. Anne and I worked right up until the last moment. They were a big hit! I felt so pleased with our afternoon labors that I felt no compunction to make cookies at the party. Every party has a pooper, that’s why you invited me.

Troglodytes, Trilobites and Turkey

Devonian Trilobite

David and Maren made it into town last night. Their flight was on time. In fact the only delay came with our pickup. The line of cars trying to get into arrivals was so long that we ended up diverting to departures, where there was no line. Maren and Dave had to schlep their bags upstairs, but other than that everything else went fine and we were on our way in no time. Since then it has been nonstop cooking. Our new stove is getting its baptism by fire, as they say. Speaking of fire, the crème brûlée was a big hit, but not near as much as the little blowtorch that I have that turns sugar into brûlée. Six of us were standing around in the kitchen last night, taking turns at browning the contents of our ramekins. I think that some people enjoyed doing that a little too much. At least we didn’t burn the house down. I’m thinking of bringing the blowtorch with us this summer, when we go camping. Most of the parks don’t allow open fires, because of the constant fire danger. We have a stove that cooks fine, but last year I saw another camper cooking hotdogs with his portable flamethrower. I was green with envy. I guess a blowtorch or even a flamethrower is not considered open fire. Now if I can only talk Anne into letting me do something like that too? Maybe asking for forgiveness would be easier than permission.