“Más vale tarde que nunca” and Green Tomato Mincemeat

I grew up in an increasingly bilingual area of Southern California. I had 6 years of Spanish classes in public school.  I was profoundly unilingual.  My friends would speak to me in Spanish, and I could follow most of what was spoken.  I did well on tests, so my grades weren’t a problem. To translate my own words into Spanish while conversing was pure Hell.  My teacher, in the Brea-Olinda Unified School District, finally gave up on my language barrier and decided to focus on my relaxed attitude towards attendance.  She decided that if I could learn just that one phrase and use it upon entering the classroom she would forgive my tardiness, no matter how much of the class I had missed.  I learned it immediatly, and never forgot those magic words.

Más vale tarde que nunca.  It was 2 weeks ago today when I last wrote anything. I was exhausted.  I promised to write about our memorable weekend journey within a day or so.  I didn’t appreciate how exhausting the next 2 weeks would be.  I started a new job.  Since the “new” job is at the hospital I worked at from 1992-2003, it feels like coming home.  Long days, and still a shift or two to fill at the “old” job.  Besides work I am still coping with the lingering effects of whooping cough.  Then, out of nowhere my  computer flashes the “blue screen of death”.  Hour after hour spent on the phone with people who promised to rescucitate the poor thing.  People from America, India and Sri Lanka.  None of whom could bring it back to life.  I knew this would be the case, deep down inside.  It seemed so wasteful to just go out and buy a new one.  So not in the budget as well.  Now, I’m just glad to be back online.

Más vale tarde que nunca.  I will write about that weekend…later.  First, I want to write about time off.  Today, I have the third of 5 days off…..in a row.  This is my reward for working all manner of hours during the first 4 days of the week.  Day one was a blur.  I had sooo many things to do.  I was in the middle of at least 4 tasks, and running in circles, when I noticed the green tomatoes.  My poor, bedraggled garden, had been neglected for weeks.  In the meantime it grew a nice crop of green tomatoes.  It dawned on me that we would soon have a freeze.  Sometimes, nature dictates change.  This day, nature would change my priorities and my schedule.  All else must be put on a back burner, I was harvesting my green tomatoes.  I don’t care to wait for them to ripen, they are never as good as ripe off the vine.  I can’t eat that many fried green tomatoes either.  A good crop of green tomatoes equals: green tomato mincemeat.

Not everyone likes mincemeat  My own family won’t eat it with raisins ( I don’t know what’s wrong with them, either.  If I hadn’t been there at the welcome, I’d wonder myself whose kids they were).

I do apologize for the lack of “production” photos, and specific measurements.  I wasn’t thinking about writing this down when I started.  Just in a green tomato frenzy, I suppose.  This mincemeat starts with chopped green tomatoes (about 9 cups), and maybe 4- 5 cups of chopped peeled apples.  I put both in a heavy dutch oven.  Then added 1 peeled, chopped orange and 1 large chopped lemon (peels and all).  It might have been easier to remove the seeds from lemon before than to try picking them out after- there’s your warning.  Now add 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup suet or oil (I used vegetable oil), 1 pound light brown sugar, 1 heaping teason each of cinnamon, ground allspice and ground cloves.  Since my family won’t eat the raisins, I snuck in 2 cups of dried cranberries and 1 cup dried cherries.  Heat the mixture at a simmer for about 45 minutes.  It will still have a lot of texture, but I prefer that over the mushiness of some canned mincemeats.   This is the one photo I managed to take once I remembered that I like to do that sort of thing.

After you’ve cooked it down a bit, transfer into pint jars and process by boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  This yeilded 7 pints plus a little left over for nibbling.

And nibbling…and nibbling…

It’s Lucy in the sky and all kinds of apple pie*.

Today I rose at the crack of dawn to work yet another 12 hour shift.  I was resigned to the day, but then got lucky twice.  First, I had a really nice patient.  Second, I was not needed.  They sent me home a little after 11am.  This is really the luckiest part, because I’ll be leaving on Tuesday, right after work, on a road trip and I need a pedicure.  I still need to pack.  That means doing laundry. The house is really in need of a good cleaning and I really need a pedicure..  The dogs need a pedicure grooming.  And I really, really need that pedicure.

First, though, I went home.  I walked right into my kitchen and saw….a huge green zucchini.  My friend Jan brought me some beautiful cucumbers and zucchinis from her garden…2 weeks ago.  We have one big squash left.  Some of the kids (and Grumpy) believe that they don’t like squash.  I hide the squash.  Sometimes in the spaghetti sauce.  A little more obvious is in Ratatouille.  I also made some zucchini boats: hollow out the zucchini and treat it like a long pizza crust- anything goes.  As I stood there, on the brink of achieving domestic greatness by completing my laundry-packing-cleaning list, I remembered that somewhere, on one of the oh-so-many blogs that I really enjoy, there was a mention of zucchini-apple pie.  It’s a fake out- a zucchini pie the sells itself as apple.  I had to try this.

I was unable to track down the original blog.  This happens far too often; but whoever you are-you angel of zucchini cleverness, I would like to credit you properly and will update with the link if provided.  I searched online, and found one that sounded great at Food.com. Click here to see the recipe.

Start with a basic single pie crust.  I wasn’t thinking straight, and I made a double crust.  I seem to do this a lot.  While the dough is chilling, you peel, seed and slice the squash (I’m getting too tired to type zucchini, so from here on it will be officially be known as “squash”).  Simmer it in a saucepan with 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup water.  I also threw in some zest, to give it a little more lemonyness (yes it is too a word).  Then I just tossed in the rest of the lemon too because I really love lemons.  I simmered until they were translucent.  Then, strain.  I didn’t want to waste the lemon water, so I set it aside for later (I’ll get to that part later…or tomorrow).

Roll out your pie crust, or grab a premade one from the store if you absolutely must.  Then, toss together some sugar, flour and cinnamon (I left out the nutmeg, I just wasn’t feeling it).   Now mix in the squash, and pour the whole thing into the pie shell.  At this point Grumpy walked into the kitchen and didn’t even notice that it wasn’t his usual apple pie.  Snicker…..  Now you mix up the crumb topping.  This is my new toy.  I stopped by the crack house in Acton, MA.  It’s official called “kitchen outlet” or some such thing, but for me it’s a crack house.  I saw this baby and broke out in a sweat.  It’s amazing… anyway, I used it to shred the butter for the pie crust and for the topping.  Love, love, love it~  So here is the pie  after baking… And this is where I really wish I had a better camera!  It’s also time for someone to invent a camera with smell technology… But below here is my dear squash-hating PJ.  He stepped up to the plate for the very first slice of “apple pie”… and he loves it!  Grumpy joined him for a big slice, and declared it “a really good apple pie”.  I told him it wasn’t apple…and when I said there was (dreaded) squash inside he mumbled “sneaky itch” or some such term of endearment.  Meanwhile, I haven’t cleaned, laundered or packed.  I will be up for hours at this rate.  Oh my poor tired feet.  They really need a pedicure!!!*from “Julie’s in the Drug Squad” by The Clash

Liv, procrastinating, and foraging

Today was one of those days when I really didn’t want to get up.  Last night I was at a Livingston Taylor concert.  He was in town to perform at a fundraiser for the high school.  I’ve never understood the extreme appeal of James Taylor.  Liv, however, is class.  He’s always been my favorite.  Not just within his family; there’s really no one to whom I’d rather listen.  Gifted musician, funny as hell and has that extra something that time doesn’t change.  We splurged for the VIP seats that included a “champagne artists reception…”.  He graciously made his way over to us.  Having advance notice you’d think I might have considered a few deep, meaningful or witty things to fall back on for conversation.  Unless you knew me, of course.  Then you’d just groan and shake your head.  You’d know that we had a private conversation about…the weather.  Yup!  Then I sat in the front and grinned at him for the rest of the night.  The High School Chamber Chorus also performed quite well. They have been asked to perform at the opening for summer Olympics in London, which is why they were fundraising.  Liv introduced one of his students, Matt Cusson, who was also a very gifted artist with a great future.  Sorry kids, I was really just there to see Liv. 

Champagne receptions don’t bring out the more responsible side of me either.  Today found me escaping work earlier than expected.  I drove home mentally cataloging the tasks awaiting me.  So many jobs and so hard to prioritize…so when I got home I grabbed a bucket and went straight to the laundry room…that’s a lie.  I took that bucket straight outside to forage.  I’m so irresponsible.  But a great forager! I found out that those pretty leaves that were popping up last week have become a lush garden of garlic mustard.   I also found more dandelions.  Lots and lots of them.  Oh my. After looking online, I found a great idea for herbal pesto by Susan Weed (great name!) of http://www.susanweed.com. The recipe can be done with a variety of greens.  First I gave them a good cleaning.  Lots of things out in the woods don’t belong in pesto.  Then, I put some olive oil, sea salt and garlic (not too much, the garlic mustard is there too) in my trusty old (very old) food processor.  After whizzing that around a bit I added the greens.  They chopped up very quickly.

I wasn’t sure if it smelled like pesto should at this point, but I’m not planning to cook it tonight so I held off on adding the cheese or nuts yet.  My anonymous child (they’re not sure they like being mentioned by their stalker mom) passed through the kitchen and thought it smelled good.  That’s promising! It says in the recipe that if you top it with a bit of olive oil this stuff stores for ages in the fridge.  I’ll give it a try over the weekend.  Maybe I’ll try that pasta recipe too.  I wish I could forage for eggs.  If only we had chickens….