Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Sliders!" is the answer...

So excuse please, remind me, what was the question again?

After doing a fair amount of electronic hand wringing about my huge backload of kitchen inertia yesterday, I decided to just suck it up and cook something, anything, for dinner.

I had some loved to death Maverick organic ground beef on hand. Seriously, ranchers these days are nicer to their livestock than I was to my kids growing up - just ask 'em. [My kids I mean. The cattle when last approached by the media apparently had no comment.] I had some leftover King's Hawaiian Rolls (packaged bread of the gods) beckoning. I had reasonable sharp cheddar on hand, some (teensy) home grown tomatoes from the one tomato plant that had actually stepped up to the plate fruit production wise this year, and a bastardized churrasco-style paste-ish thing I'd thrown together to use up a slightly tired CSA onion along with the entirety of my garden's currently underwhelming jalapeño harvest. Sliders for dinner it was.

A quick glance revealed the Hawaiian rolls had taken it upon themselves to go into antibiotic research while we were out of town for the past week. Yup, unfortunately these little slider wrap wannabes had gone over to the mold side of the Force. Now that I had finally made my mind up to cook, I was not to be easily deterred. I made certain I had an acceptable substitute slider delivery vehicle yet available, and got down to work.

Side note: Some days I am pretty smart in the kitchen and other days not so much. Before I left on the two day road trip with my youngest heading up towards where her law school lives, I know I should have put any bread I was interested in eating a week later into the reefer. Bread left out at room temperature in Central Texas in August lasts about 3 days, tops. Anything that doesn't mold in that time span is so shot through with preservatives you might want to reconsider eating it unless you are simply feeling short a few chemical compounds yourself. In which case there are other more enjoyable ways to get your chemicals, but that is another type of post altogether.

So. I massaged some Worcestershire sauce and the jalapeño/onion/garlic/basil paste into the beef with my bare hands, one of the indisputable joys of making sliders in my book, formed adorable little patties, quick sliced some red onion and glommed the onion bits into one side of each patty. I was all set. I fired up a hot skillet, prepped the buns with mayo, cheese and liberally salted and peppered homegrown tomato slices, and we were ready to rumble.I served these babies with our go-to kettle chips and that was that for dinner. Perhaps not the healthiest dinner imaginable but for somebody who was just remembering how to crawl in the kitchen, it sufficed.Anyway, I have plans to make up for that not so healthy dinner last night with a respectably healthy dinner tonight.

Tonight I will endeavor to put together some version of a panzanella, along the lines of this one featured recently on feelgood eats, substituting "I want to like you" sardines for the anchovies. More on those sardines in a moment.The list of ingredients is pretty straightforward, the recipe fairly unambitious.Day old bread, tomatoes, basil, salt, red wine vinegar, some red onion. This looks like a salad even someone like me, hoping to regain their kitchen chops, can attempt without undue fear or loathing. I already have a few heirloom tomatoes on hand that I bought at the market, leftover bread, basil from my garden and some slightly smoked sardines that I am endeavoring to love. Which brings me to my proposed Experiment in Liking Sardines.

Reading a list of the top 11 healthy foods we aren't eating enough of, and knowing what we can responsibly eat from the sea, that meaning mostly seafood sustainably harvested and not containing sufficient mercury to take your own temperature internally, I recently realized I will have to come to grips with my general aversion to fishy tasting fish. Namely, sardines.

Sardines are very good for you, they are not drastically decreasing in numbers under current fishing practices, and they are not hysterically expensive. Although there will never be a "local" version of sardines to buy, I know I need to find a way to eat them without holding my nose. Draining the oil off them (which yeah I saved for the dressing, relax!) they began to slightly break apart. They are sensitive, sardines are. Who knew? Realizing my palate has (ahem!) "matured" along with the rest of me, it is possible I might have given sardines a bad rap in the past.

My husband already likes sardines plain, mashed up on saltine crackers. I am hopeful this salad will strike him as a slight improvement on that. I am optimistic that in this wonderfully summery combination, the salty fishiness of the sardines will meld together with the bread, tomatoes, basil and red onion in a way that will have me smacking my forehead for having waited so long to try the little fishes in the tin.

What the hell, I'm going for it. I get to approach sardines respectfully as a healthy ingredient, and prepare dinner without heating the kitchen up. I figure to start with a nice glass of slightly chilled red wine (again, it is August in Texas so just keep your little disdainful gasps of horror to yourself). The wine will serve to inflate my smug sense of self righteousness for being so open minded about trying tinned fish. That sure can't hurt. As a bonus I get to mash tomatoes with my bare hands. Being a little smug, playing with food with my bare hands...can you imagine having much more fun while fixing dinner than that?

I'll get back to you with how this little Experiment in Liking Sardines #1 goes. Could it be I've unreasonably avoided this piscine delicacy all these years? Has my "bésame no go" policy towards my occasionally sardine breathed husband been a case of unwarranted aversion? Time, and the next installment of this blog, will tell.

In the midst of all this summertime plenty, there are folks everywhere who are existing without enough food to eat. Here in Central Texas, 1 in 4 children faces hunger every day. Area wide our Food Banks are finding themselves with increasing demands and empty shelves. Many area churches and grocers have bins set up to accept nonperishable donations for local food banks such as the Hope Food Pantry at Trinity Methodist. Whenever you shop or worship either one, please consider buying/bringing a little something extra for those who might otherwise have to do without.

No comments: