Archive | September, 2011

Comfort Food and 9/11

11 Sep

I think, in every generation, there is a time or event that makes others in the same and future generations say, “Where were you when…?”  Today is the 10th anniversary of that event.  I was on duty as an RA in my dorm at Arizona State University, in charge of 60 frantic freshmen, one of which had a sister on Flight 93.  All day, I’ve been on and off the phone with my mom – a New York native – recounting the events, what we did and said, and gave verbal thanks that our family members and friends who were in the towers were able to safely escape.  I know others’ families weren’t as lucky.

The summer sun never came out today on the Oregon Coast, but that’s ok because it gave a great damp chill indicative only of the fall months to come.  Combined with football and munchies leftover from yesterday’s annual Cranberry Festival, it felt like a day to relax, stay home, and be thankful.

I’m sitting here in front of a blank computer page, trying to figure out exactly how to explain this.  Having already typed and then erased quite a few sentences, I’ll give it another go.

WE HAVE VEGETABLES COMING OUT OF OUR EARS.

So with the familiar and fresh fall feeling outside, combined with the feeling of wanting that also familiar warm home comfort, I called my mom, again, this time asking what she would make for dinner on a Sunday night like tonight.  Without me explaining my feeling/craving for comfort food, she immediately unknowingly shared the sentiment and started to list off some of her yummiest comforting dishes.  Beef Stroganoff, Tuna Noodle Casserole, and Campfire Stew were some of the top contenders.  While they all sounded amazing, I had to speak up and tell her about our abundance of veggies.

Our Wintergreen Farms basket has been plentiful the last few weeks, with deliveries of corn, zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, eggplant, and beautiful tomatoes.  So Rob and I have been swimming in fresh veg.  It is wonderful – don’t get me wrong – but there came a point where we had to figure out how to use it all!

With Notre Dame on the TV last night, we grilled up the veg.  Combined with the choices of a lemon vinaigrette, honey mustard dressing, or cinnamon and garlic aioli, our veggie football night was awesome.  But then, we still had leftovers.

Longer story shorter, and back to the phone call, my mom and I practically came up with the idea for tonight’s 9/11 comfort dinner at the same time: Grilled Vegetarian Chili.  Half leftover grilled veg, half pantry staples, a few hours in the Dutch oven, and another comfort food was born.  The smokiness from grilling the veg really added a lot to the chili, like the familiar taste of meat.  And this dinner was even suitable for Sunday night football.

Rob is on duty, so it’s a girl’s night tonight – my comforting Vegetarian Chili, a roaring fire heating up the house, the “Home Sweet Home” Yankee candle is already burning, probably another phone call to my mom, and most likely a Bravo Housewives marathon.  Not exactly what I was doing 10 years ago today, but a good way to remember.

To all my New York and New Jersey relatives – I love you and miss you and I’m sending you hugs and kisses!

Grilled Vegetarian Chili (makes about 5 quarts)

  • About 6 cups diced, grilled vegetables – I used corn, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and potatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15 oz. kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. black beans, rinsed
  • 2 large tbsp canned green chilis
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (crush them with your hand so less surface area of the tomatoes touch the metal can)
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spicy)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • s&p
  • Your favorite cheese, optional (for topping the chili)

Saute the onions in the butter over med-high heat, and season with a bit of salt.  Once the onions are translucent, add the chopped grilled vegetables, beans, and tomatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the spices, vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper.  Note: you will probably notice after cooking for a while that you’ll need to adjust seasoning – it gives you a great excuse to meander into the kitchen and take lots of tastes. 

Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour.  Stir occasionally.  If you like a thicker chili, leave the pot uncovered for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. 

Top with cheese, if you would like.  It’s thick, rich, and smoky – just don’t burn the roof of your mouth diving in!  

Enjoy!  

A Year of Firsts

6 Sep

So while Rob and I were traveling through the beautiful, rustic, majestic, and humble farmland of the Umpqua Valley vineyards last Sunday, we started thinking about this last year, our first year of marriage.  Not only was it the token newlywed year (which some say is the hardest; we don’t, really), but we started to realize it was filled with a whole lot of firsts, accomplishments, and memorable moments.  Here are just a few to let you share in a tidbit of our little life up here in Coos Bay:

First time buying fish off a dock.
First time driving 2 hours to go to Target.
Our first Thanksgiving, where we cooked.
Rob making Lieutenant.
Our first art purchase.
Our first perfectly butterflied and grilled chicken, followed by a perfectly charred chicken, and then a perfectly raw chicken.
Our first Beef Wellington (Christmas dinner).
Our first home-grown tomato.
Our first dog, Sig.
Our first memories with Sig: Sig lapping wine on the coffee table, Sig stealing socks, Sig digging holes, Sig getting stuck under the couch.
My first trip to Cape Cod.
Our first trip to Bend, Oregon.
First time barrel-tasting in Oregon (TeSoAria winery – probably some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted)
First realization that in the grand scheme of things, most arguments are simply stupid.
Our first time skiing on a volcano.
First time going to the emergency room (an *almost* broken toe – Rob got his duty covered to drive me)
Our first married dates: morning Sugar Shack donuts watching the birds nest on the dock, surprise McDonalds at work, Empire Cafe Friday nights.
Well-traveled scones (Rob brings them back from his Newport duty nights… pastries airlifted by the US Coast Guard).
Our first pancakes in bed.
Fresh flowers almost every week.
First time we realized that we actually love Oregon.
An increasingly growing flatulence-comfort zone.
Massages, and lots of rain-checks for massages (I’m still waiiitting…).
Rob’s first time eating a 32-oz Ribeye steak in one of Portland’s most exquisite restaurants.
My first Oregon oyster in a half shell (they are HUGE, like actually-need-to-chew-them-not-just-suck-them-down large).
Our first time making Super Couch (where we push our two couches together to make one, giant, comfy couch).
First time meeting Michael Chiarello (he made fun of Rob.  I think Rob is still a little bitter about it).
Our first legitimate tsunami experience.
Rob’s first time falling in quicksand.
My first time freaking out watching Rob fall in quicksand.
Our first kiss each new day, followed by a last-day’s kiss each night.
Having the comfort and knowledge that we are each other’s other half.

Rob put it best: “I feel like we’ve done some pretty big things.”

Which, naturally, led to recounting our wedding reception.  Rather than use the standard table-service options that the Marriott gave us for the reception, Rob and I, being the relentless foodies we are (well, I’m relentless.  Rob is relentless-in-training), we decided to design our own menu.  Knowing our families, only one meat entree (beef tenderloin) and one veg entree (creamy truffled mushroom pasta) would do perfectly, and it did.  Among the many, many compliments we received that night, we continually heard accolades about our food choices.  Kudos to the great chefs at the Marriott, but we also like to take credit for designing the meal.  The thing was, we didn’t get to eat it!

As weddings go (I’m told), we were the couple that hardly got a bite to eat, and forewent on the booze, arriving to our honeymoon suite much later that night realizing we agreeably wanted to stuff our faces before, well, you know.

So last night, being our official one-year anniversary, after we opened our first-year anniversary cards (we not-so-surprisingly bought each other the same card), I made our dinner – our wedding dinner.  Pepper crusted Filet Mignon with a red-wine reduction, rosemary potatoes gratin, and crispy roasted veg: onions, green beans, and asparagus (although tender spring veg is short-lived up here, so the asparagus was seasonally nixed).  Falling in as yet another first in our lives, it was our first anniversary dinner, and it was delicious.  Just as we remembered… oh, wait… just as we were told it tasted. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: