Weird Dinner

Back in college, after I learned how to make a white sauce, I started calling the concoctions I’d cook “weird lunch”.  “Wanna visit?  I’m making weird lunch.”  It was generally palatable enough; the weirdness was mainly the feeling that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.

Last night I started with the plan of doing simple pasta with tomato sauce (which I do know how to do) and ended up with weird dinner.  It went something like:

“I need to cook something.  All I really know how to do is pasta and tomato sauce.  But I have Mizithra cheese and could find out how to do browned butter.  Oh, this browned butter instruction page mentions chicken and linguine.  Say, I have chicken (frozen) and linguine.  What else do I have?  Oh, here’s some really ancient cottage cheese that miraculously is apparently still edible…”

The result actually was tasty enough to be worth documenting, so here we go.

  1. Browned 1 stick unsalted butter in a saucier.  Spoiler: I didn’t actually taste it in the final dish.  Probably should’ve browned it more, but was worried I’d end up with blackened butter and erred on the side of unburnt.
  2. Put 2 frozen chicken thighs to thaw in bowl of cold water, and started pot of salted water to boil for linguine.
  3. Put cottage cheese (about a cup?) into bowl for later, and mixed tarragon, fresh-ground nutmeg, and a bit of light soy sauce in it.  (The nutmeg is because the person who taught me how to make lasagna used to mix it in with the egg/ricotta.  I never taste it in the lasagna, but I figure there must be some reason she put it in.)

    spiced cottage cheese 2017-08-15 20.50.07
    The cottage cheese had a date of Sep 07 on it.  While I know the 07 is a day rather than the year, I’m pretty sure the year isn’t 2017.
  4. Spouse came home so I asked him which oil to use for browning the chicken.  Then he exited to go to Home Depot to buy a ladder.
  5. Started tomatoes in saucier: olive oil, 4 largish cloves garlic, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, 1 can diced tomatoes, bit of soy sauce.  Usually I’d do two cans of tomatoes to one pkg pasta, but since I was adding the chicken and browned butter I stuck with one.  In future will probably do more, or add something else; we felt that more tomato taste or some other more intense flavor would have been good.
    tomato sauce and linguine 2017-08-15 20.52.20
  6. Linguine now in water.
  7. Pulled out chicken thighs, which were nearly thawed, after putting latex gloves on.  Patted dry with paper towel, then removed right glove to salt them.  Called spouse to ask whether it was better to brown them whole and then cut up, or cut them up first (with slight preference to latter because they were already on the cutting board and I’d need to use a different board or wash this one if I planned to cut them after cooking.  Turns out spouse was still at home because Prius’s battery was flat and that’s the car that would fit the ladder.  He decided to skip the ladder and just go to Target for some other stuff.  Also concurred that cutting up chicken first would probably be fine.
  8. Cut up chicken.  Because I am mostly not an idiot I kept my left glove on (for holding the chicken).  Because mostly != totally, this still happened.
    chicken cutting oops 2017-08-15 20.59.39
    After taking picture, I promptly lost track of the piece with the dot of latex.  Found it later but then couldn’t be sure at first that I’d actually removed the latex because it was invisible against the rest of the glove.  Spouse comes in at this point to bear witness to this and starts to give me a lesson on how to hold food for cutting safely, until I point out that the problem was that the glove is just a bit too big, not that I was holding it carelessly.  (My fingers were in no danger of being cut.)  Spouse agrees that that’s just bad luck with extra glove material, then departs for real this time, after helping me drain linguine.
  9. Mix tomato sauce and doctored cottage cheese in with pasta to get it out of the way.
  10. Pour teaspoon of oil from nearly-empty bottle into pan, then way more than that from nearly-full bottle.  Shout “WAH!” which is Robin for “HELP I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING THE HOUSE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN” and then get on with cooking the chicken anyway because there doesn’t seem to be much choice.  (Considered pouring some of the oil out of the pan, then concluded that chances of making a slippery flammable mess that way were higher than just going with the amount in the pan.)
    chicken in too much oil 2017-08-15 21.18.19
  11. Call spouse to request some sort of sparkling juice while he’s at Target, because I don’t like wine but feel like classy fruit-derived beverage would be appropriate.  Meat starting to brown at this point.  Reassure spouse that house will probably not be burned down by the time he returns.
  12. Chicken successfully burned, I mean browned.  Use slotted silicone spatula to transfer into pot of pasta. Mix in browned butter.  Grate a small mountain of mizithra cheese.  Start transferring pasta to serving bowl, sprinkling cheese after each tongsful of pasta.  Put remaining cheese on top.
  13. Spouse calls. Instead of hello, I greet him with “ON TOP OF LINGUINE, ALL COVERED WITH CHEESE. GOOD THING I HATE MEATBALLS, ‘CAUSE THEY MAKE ME SNEEZE. …I mean, yes?”  He’s calling about fruit beverage.  We settle on Izze blackberry sodalike liquid.
  14. Send photo of pasta to family, with slightly improved lyrics.
    mount linguine 2017-08-15 21.31.24
  15. Spouse returns. We dine. Spouse incredulously asks what the thing he’s tasting that seems almost like tarragon is; I inform him that it is in fact tarragon.  Later, I mention the nutmeg, which gives him a bit of a duh moment since it’s suddenly very obvious.  Incidentally, he added a bit of fish sauce to his, for real.

Overall verdict is that it’s a decent effort that could use some stronger flavoring, perhaps tomato paste or red wine.  I am not a wine aficionado even in cooking, but it probably would work here.  The recipe that reminded me that I have chicken included fresh spinach and pine nuts, which have some possibilities.  Overall I feel like it was a bit too oily, which leads me to the odd conclusion that actually the butter was unnecessary in this case.  Don’t know if I’m tasting the mizithra explicitly.  The cottage cheese presence is fairly minimal, but worked well as a carrier for the tarragon and nutmeg, and I think those were successful (spouse thought it was just enough tarragon, which worries me a little as I didn’t measure it).  Fresh mozzarella, burrata, or ricotta might also be good choices.  Spouse thought shiitake mushrooms would be good.  Now that I’m typing this, I think maybe I would’ve liked it better with white meat (I had the thighs because I wanted to try making karaage, which is better with dark), which is somewhat unusual for me.

Izze was good too.  Unfortunately, later in the evening I started feeling unwell, but I’m pretty sure that’s from motion sickness watching spouse play FF XII and running around at double or quadruple speed.

But yay!  I cooked!  All by myself!

Sorry there is no cat picture here.  I should’ve taken one of the audience I had, probably attracted by the chicken cooking.  Moonstone had the roundest, most dilated eyes ever.  She seems to have figured out that that’s the way to look especially pleading and hopeful when requesting food (which she does by purring affectionately while rubbing her face on my elbow or whatever she can reach).

That Cat

We were peacefully playing/watching Final Fantasy XII when there was an incredible crash from the kitchen, with the splintering tinkles of something glassish being broken.  We rushed over to find the floor and a few other surfaces covered with shards from a large CorningWare serving bowl, and an orange tail disappearing through the foyer.

What was in this bowl that had so tempted the perpetrator to presumably poke and prod at it to the point of pushing it off the edge?  Meat?  Shrimp?  Tonight’s very tasty fish?

No, it was a corncob and some husks.  An already-fully-eaten-from corncob.

I know his mother didn’t raise him to be a vegetarian.  She’s right here to confirm.

Praline with fabric toy 2017-04-26 02.52.45

Placeholder Cats

I have various sets of photos edited to put in posts and keep forgetting the actual posting part.  As it’s quite late and I need to clean litterboxes before I go to bed, they’ll have to continue to wait, but here are a few standalone cat pics so I don’t entirely forget how to do this.

Moonstone on ottoman 2017-05-16 12.21.45
Moonstone on ottoman, a.k.a. the little giant kitty bed
Praline sunshine snooze 2017-05-18 17.20.03
Praline snoozes in the sun.
Rhombus half 2017-05-20 18.38.38
Half a Rhombus.  I guess that’s just a bus.
CMY grooming 2017-05-03 00.02.31
CMY carefully cleans a foot.
Gray Cat on wall 2017-04-18 17.44.30
Gray Cat, the local feral who “introduced” Meringue to us.
Licoris sunny belly 2017-04-20 14.33.00
Upside-down Licoris head!
kittykins with treat tower 2017-04-26 03.02.58
Five-Spice, Vanilla, Walnut, and Meringue enjoy treats.
Quot nap 2 2017-05-04 18.16.00
Another adorable Quot nap.
Velcro jumping into box 2017-03-03 21.19.15
Velcro jumps!
Triquet in outdoor chair 2017-05-25 16.36.41
Triquet chills.

Bird in the House

I was sitting on the couch about to drink my coffee when I heard bird sounds from the direction of the family room (to which the catio is attached).  At first I thought it was a forgotten cat toy recently rediscovered, but the sounds were too loud and varied.  I stood up and saw Praline leaping at the wall and realized we had a visitor.

(There would be a picture here of an adorable little bird on the floor near the stairs if I’d thought of it, but my attention was focused on keeping the cats away from it.)

The poor little thing was crouched trembling on the floor, watched by several slightly confused cats.  They knew this moving thing was interesting and worth catching (there’d been a similar experience with a small bat, which I don’t remember if I blogged), but had never actually had the opportunity to.  Since the bird was petrified, I took a chance and picked it up in my left hand, where it huddled and shook and cheeped but was otherwise still, and yanked the (human-sized) door to the catio open.  Vanilla was still out there, but she looked at me with wide eyes and skedaddled.

There’s a mesh door leading to the backyard from the catio, which I intended to go through to release the bird.  However, it has latches on both sides, and unfortunately they were both latched at this time.  As I discovered this, the bird struggled out of my hand and fluttered to the floor.  Spouse had joined me by then and I asked him to go around and unlatch the door from the back.  I then put a pillow in front of the cat door, because I’d forgotten that it locks from the inside rather than the side I was on.

After the door was unlatched I found the poor terrified bird and carried it out to the back and put it on a fence post.

bird on fencepost 2017-04-29 15.27.28-3

It just sat there for a bit and at first I worried that it might be injured, but spouse pointed out that it was, well, terrified and catching its breath.  He went back in to properly lock the cat door to the catio, because once the bird recovered, it promptly did this.

bird in catio 2017-04-29 15.29.09

Yes.  It flew directly to the one-inch mesh and popped through to land on the shelf.  Argh.  Well, at least we knew it could fly.

I went back into the catio and watched it for a bit.  I wasn’t the only one.

Praline looking out 2017-04-29 15.31.37Praline looking out closeup 2017-04-29 15.31.37

It rested for a while.  This gave me the opportunity to get a size comparison, though naturally the camera focused on the greenery in the background.

bird with hand 2017-04-29 15.32.11

I stroked its soft little back one more time and it cheeped and squeezed through the mesh and flew around the corner of the house.  Phew.  I wonder if it’s learned anything from this.

Backyard, Part 2

With my usual timeliness, this post is about things that happened a month ago.  Specifically, the quite heavy rain we got about a week after my February post complaining about the deer eating my heucheras.  The deer had nothing on the rain in terms of damage to our five-month-old landscaping.

Being on the lower part of a hillside, there was quite a lot of water running toward our house.  The house itself was fine, since it’s largely built over empty space. But the drainage system, which was installed after the ’97-98 El Nino, was not quite able to cope with the mud and debris that washed down along with the water, so the water had to find alternate routes.  This was taken the day after the heaviest rain.

Not much compared to actual flooding, I realize, but still distressing when I saw bare mud and water where my heucheras used to be.

I especially liked how my green spice heuchera had turned into a defunct tennis ball.  (That one and the other upper picture were taken about a week and a half later, after the water had drained a bit.)

About two weeks after the video was taken (during which it had continued to rain, though not as hard), spouse and I went out and tried to relocate some of the dirt and mud and unearth our stepping stones.  And I realized that my plants were just buried, not washed away!

That last one could’ve been a Find the Plant.  It was difficult.  I found the upper left one, then spouse unearthed the lower one (the chocolate heuchera, seen in the first pic in the above-linked post), and we both worked at the upper right one.  Each plant has its own drip irrigation, so we dug for the tube and then followed it to the drip spout.

Also, I should mention that we had help. Sort of.

muddy footprints 2017-03-05 17.20.53

The exhumed heucheras are doing well and I’ll put pictures of them and other plants in another post.  But in order to have an actual animal photo in this post, I’ll add the deer that we saw a few days later.

deer through upstairs window 2017-03-08 12.02.53