Posts Tagged ‘fall foods’

Make mine a tuna fish sandwich–with a side of attitude

October 3, 2009
Tuna Fish Sandwich with a Side of Attitude

Tuna Fish Sandwich with a Side of Attitude

I work from home.  This presents me with the amazing opportunity to do what I love:  cook.  In between phone calls, studio work and sales calls, I can bake a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread or throw some ribs into the oven to cook until the meat is fleeing the bone.  

This work-from-home situation also allows my husband and brother-in-law to come home for lunch.  Some days are better than others, but they know there is always good coffee and a “side of attitude” being served.  Before you think of me adopting a sassy wise-cracking diner-waitress-persona(and believe me there is plenty of that), I want to introduce and define the “side of attitude” which I consider to be a point of personal pride. 

 A “side of attitude,” is a creative, nourishing, tasty and unexpected side dish.  The first time my brother-in-law saw a prepared lunch of Tuna Fish Salad served with Cottage Cheese and a Grapefruit Half, he smiled and joked, “Excuse me, but I ordered the unhealthy lunch. ” My husband loved the way that lunch looked when they walked in the door.  “Wow.  Honey, this is great.”  It was very diner-like, but so inviting, so simple and if I say so myself, thoughtful. 

A good side dish is thoughtful because that food eventually becomes part of the person who is eating it.  Now, this may seem a bit Polyanna, but I have been accused of that and worse.  In fact, my brother-in-law refers to me as, “Someone who is happy about the world,” where puppies can do no wrong and “ordinary life occasions can become big events.”  A side dish fits into this last observation as something ordinary that can bring a little unexpected happiness to a meal. 

Lunch in particular can be a tricky time.  People seem to slip into a fog when it comes to choosing a companion for their sandwich.  It’s not their fault.  The American pysche has slipped into a dollar-menu mentality when it comes to companion foods.  I am here to tell of a different way of life.  It is a world of foods that are fresh and tasty, quick to prepare and dazzling to the eye.  I am here to proclaim a higher standard for side dishes capable of  nourishing bodies and  being  included in the quick lunches America is forced to consume.

Allow me to further clarify.  French fries are a counterfeit vegetable.  Potato chips are not a side dish.  Lettuce covered in dressing is a cruel mockery to authentic salads every where.  And the rice/baked potato song and dance bores me to tears.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Take the challenge.  Use more creativity and take some pride in the long-forgotten side dish. 

Try these delicious lunch menus to get you started:  Turkey Sandwich with Mozzarella Cheese, Red Pepper and Pesto Spread with a side of Baked Zucchini Sticks; Grilled Cheese on Texas Toast with Tomato Soup and Seedless Black Grapes; Left over Spaghetti with Apple Slices and Peanut Butter.  It’s easy if you think fresh and fast.  Add a side of broccoli, cashews, carrot and celery sticks, an orange, yogurt and the list goes on…

Suffering and Raspberry Pie

September 4, 2009

“Raspberry pie.  Mmmmm. This is why we suffer.”  My husband smiled in agreement and offered no sound, but for the ping of a fork deliberately released, quiet chewing and the delicate sound of savoring as his tongue pressed the roof of his mouth and coaxed the tastes to linger a little longer.  Luscious berries, buttery crust and the crescendos of tart and sour are a symphony of textures and tastes beyond compare. 

Although I detest self-disclosure or public confessional, the contrast of suffering and a perfect raspberry pie speaks to the power of this simple and elegant dessert.  I live in Northern Minnesota, where snow is harvested by the feet, cold is measured below zero and times occur when warmth cannot be obtained, even indoors.  Summer comes in July and leaves at the beginning of September before giving way to a rainy cold fall.  This leaves just enough time to get everything repaired and secured for the next winter. ‘Why do we continue to live here?’  This is a conversation I’ve had countless times with perfect strangers huddled under four layers of clothing, teeth chattering. So began the list of ‘Why we suffer.’

This part of the country offers some spectacular treats for those willing to endure the brutal extremes of the environment.  The Northern lights, deer and fawn grazing the back yard almost daily, bunnies too numerous to name, yesterday a black bear perched at the top of a tree and the occasional fiesty racoon are part of our urban family and on the list of  good reasons for ‘why we suffer.’    Nothing, but nothing beats the raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and rhubarb that grow in this region.  They are the unexpected gifts that gently persuade the people to inhabit this unconquered real estate. So out of this bountiful gift was born an elegant dessert– Raspberry Pie.

The simplicity of the ingredients calls out to the least experienced cook:  raspberries, brown sugar, corn starch, lemon peel–add crust.  Sigh.  The truth is that you don’t have to be a suffering Minnesotan to make such a culinary delight.  Thanks to the interstate trucking system and Pillsbury pie crust, you don’t even have to travel, learn to make grandma’s crust or become a food snob to enjoy.  This is the recipe: 

2 1/2 cups raspberries

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

lemon zest

 2 Tbs butter

1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

Toss berries, sugar, cornstarch, a dash of salt and lemon zest  in a bowl.  Prepare crust according to package directions or use grandma’s crust recipe.  When the bottom crust is in place, brush with egg white, then pour fruit mixture into the crust. Cut butter into small squares and place all over the top of the pie before adding the top crust.  I prefer a lattice pie design for my raspberry pies.  Tip: Begin the lattice design with a giant x in the middle and it goes much smoother.  Usually, I take a little extra pie crust and cut out a heart for the top of the pie.  After all, love is the secret ingredient.

As you are scrambling to take advantage of the last fresh fruits and vegetables of the season, don’t forget to include plans to bake a fresh Raspberry Pie.  There is no excuse–even if you are not a foodie.  For me, these last freshly baked raspberry pies are a necessity–my early reward for suffering yet another cold Minnesotan winter.