Of all things to do with tomatoes, my favorite is to make what is known as a pico de gallo or salsa fresca. Chop up five tomatoes Fresh romas work best. Depending on your preference, Add three diced jalapeños (you may wish to remove the seeds), a red bell pepper, one chopped sweet onion, and two minced cloves of garlic. Mix these in a bowl. Add chopped cilantro to your liking, squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl, add olive oil, a touch of vinegar, salt, and pepper.
That is the basic recipe for what might be the perfect food. It certainly is the answer to “what does fresh taste like?” It is easy to switch up this basic recipe; roast your jalapenos (this is known as a chipotle) or the onion (this is known as a roasted onion) or all the veggies. Your salsa will take on a very interesting and rewarding taste if you allow the vegetables to char. If you think jalapenos are too hot, use bell peppers. If you think they are not hot enough, use cayenne or even habaneros. Prepare this salsa for tacos or baked potatoes or serve with rice and beans. Serve it with other salsas as part of a salsa bar. No matter how you prepare it, you will be glad you did.
I walked down an aisle at the grocery last week and saw sesame sticks. Not far away were malted milk balls. They both made me think of Dad. We once went to a salad bar that had sesame sticks on it and Dad came home with pockets full. That was probably as far as he went into criminal activity but we always liked to remind him about those signs on salad bars that warn you not to take food home. If malted milk balls were found on salad bars, I am pretty sure he would’ve loaded up on them also.
Dad liked to talk about how Grandpa threw him into Paint Creek and told him to learn to swim. He didn’t do that to me but on my way home from getting my driver’s permit, he did park our old van halfway up Ross Hill Road and had me get behind the wheel to get it the rest of the way up. That van was a three speed on the column and driving it up that hill was not the same as driving it around the church parking lot. We rolled all the way down the hill backwards before I was able to get us moving forward. Dad just sat there.
Most of the time he was a bit more animated. One example includes the time he played the drunk in a church play. He messed his hair, removed his teeth, and staggered back and forth up the center aisle clutching a brown bag, nearly falling down three or four times.
In some conversations he talked about sports celebrities as if he knew them. They certainly seemed to be on a first name basis. Hopalong Cassady was “Hop.” John Havlicek was “Hondo.” Ted Kluszewski was “Klu.” He also made it sound like he knew Bill Russell and Jerry Lucas. We were pretty sure he knew other celebrities as well. The way he talked about Roy Rogers and Wyatt Earp made it seem as if he had seen them just the other day.
During these days that hand washing has become part of regular conversation, I am reminded how Dad taught me to wash hands. He would lather up and then surround my hands with his and tell me to rub and rinse.
Sheltering in place would have just given him a reason to stay at home watching reruns of Leroy Jethro Gibbs (of course, Dad just called him “Gibbs”) on television and warning people not to break rule number nine. I don’t think he would have been too bothered by the coronavirus. I suspect he had always thought he would like to wear a mask into public places. He would probably role play as if he were Jesse James (I think he was on a first name basis with him also). Wearing a mask would just increase his urge to act as if he were holding up salad bars so he could stock up on sesame sticks and malted milk balls.
As the tomato season is coming to a close it is good to use homegrown tomatoes in as many ways as possible. One good way is to make marinara. The stuff you buy in jars at the grocery is just a pretender compared to what you can create in your own kitchen. If you do not have homegrown tomatoes, you can make this stuff with canned tomatoes.
Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add one finely chopped sweet onion. Add several cloves of minced garlic. Add fresh ground black pepper. Add twenty-eight ounces of coarse ground tomatoes until simmer. Turn heat to low. Cook for twenty minutes to a half hour. How can it be any easier than that?
You can add flavor with fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme) or by roasting your onion or a bulb of garlic.
Put this on your pasta or on meatballs. Mix it with sausage, peppers and onions. Use it for pizza sauce. Get creative, how do you like marinara?
Where have all the poets gone?
Those with words like songs
That we would march behind
Words that are able to take us places
Where are they now?
We would climb their words like a ladder
And from a higher place
Everything began to look different
Where are they now?
Like a raft we float on their words
Both those that make us still
And those that make us move
Where are they now?
As a needle pulling thread
Words pull us into familiar places
And into places we have never been before
Where are they now?
Where have all the poets gone?
Those with words like whispers and trumpets
Those who shouted from rooftops and mountains
Those who brought the good news
Where have they gone?
Dad pulled an old Weber Kettle Grill out of the tree line a few years back. I cannot believe what we have pulled out of the nearby woods. Most of it has not been useful, we once brought in a dumpster to dispose of much of it. On the other hand, this kettle grill has served great purpose. We keep starting fires in there and cooking stuff in it. Last week it was chicken thighs. But this year it has already cooked whole chickens and hamburgers and meatballs and bratwursts and shrimp and mushrooms and beets and Brussel sprouts. We roast onions and garlic in there. We fire roast eggs in the shell. I am sure there are more efficient ways to cook, but for a long time now I have been content with a Weber.
Talking about food, we have been picking zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries. Our strawberry bed is full of a variety called Seascape. They are a day neutral berry that apparently starts to ripen in late July and will continue into Autumn. So far, we have kept the critters from them.
Elsewhere on the property, there are other critters looking for food. The trail cam has caught a coyote, red fox, and raccoon searching at night. There are multiple deer, including three different fawns, that have been showing up at all hours. Only one buck has made himself known at this point.
Recently, we have seen more rain. Often it comes along with a thunderstorm. Limbs, some of them heavy, have been falling, one right in the middle of the lane. This is what August is like back here, at least this year. At least the garden is getting some water. Back to eating, I recently had a tomato sandwich. No bacon, no lettuce, just tomato. No Weber necessary. It was a Brandywine and it was delicious. Not all food needs to be cooked. I am looking forward to the next one.
It is the fortunate time of year that tomatoes are plentiful and a good time to look for ways to use them. This is simple and tasty. Slice several garlic cloves thin (don’t be skimpy). Toast the garlic slices in olive oil and set aside. Cut four to five tomatoes in half, remove the seeds (easy to do with a teaspoon). Chop the tomatoes, coarsely chop a quarter cup of basil and add to the tomatoes. Add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and coat with toasted garlic and oil. Let marinate while preparing toast, rub bread with half of garlic clove. Top with marinated tomatoes.
Strangely, I love bruschetta for breakfast. Guaranteed to taste like summer.
A certain man had two children. Together the family was a blessing to the village. Both of the children became helpers. The boy guided people on dangerous adventures in order to help them to find things they were looking for and many were grateful. The girl was a healer and was called upon to care for the sick and many were healed on account of her skills. The village was blessed by this family and the man loved both his children.
There was an enemy. One who was envious and wished ill upon the family. One day, a virus entered the village and a number of people became sick. People no longer braved the adventures that demanded the skills of the son, but many were in need of the daughter’s healing. She worked hard, yet many died.
The certain man suggested they work together for the good of the village. They agreed but the brother refused to do some of the basic things his sister claimed were necessary in order to keep the village safe. He claimed she was fearful and sometimes even paranoid. She claimed he was callous and sometimes even an embarrassment.
The two children came to their father and both expected him to agree with their opinion. The man loved both his children and knew the work of the enemy. He was saddened that the enemy had gained such an influence over his children and he asked the question “How can we expect the village to receive our blessing if we cannot even get along with one another?”
It is the perfect time to think of something light hearted. Something that makes not only my soul happy, but also my taste buds. Perhaps especially when surrounded by controversy chili is good medicine. Consider this a prescription. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet, but consider this a script for chili. It will make you feel better, I promise.
If your garden is producing tomatoes, peppers, and onions – even better. But if not, a walk through the grocery will do. Fry up a half pound of thick cut bacon (keep it flimsy, don’t kill it by over crisping it) and set it aside. To your stock pot, add olive oil, one diced sweet onion (we grow Walla Walla’s; a Vidalia is another perfect choice) and mince several cloves of garlic (don’t be skimpy on the garlic).
Once onions are clear, add seven or eight chopped jalapeños (you will probably want to remove the seeds). Let them cook a minute before adding the bacon and a pound of beef. As the beef is cooking, add a tablespoon each of chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Add fresh cracked black pepper (don’t be skimpy). Once beef begins to brown, add twenty-eight ounces of crushed tomatoes (if you do not have fresh, a can will do).
While this simmers, add chopped peppa dew peppers (five or six) and a teaspoon of oregano. Let simmer for an hour.
While this is the basic chili, feel free to experiment. Add multiple peppers, I often add poblano or red bell peppers. Add black beans or kidney beans. Get fancy and go for prosciutto instead of bacon. Instead of ground beef, go for bison or pork or veal (or all of the above). Smoke meats in advance to add. I often smoke short ribs or sausage and toss it into the chili. Add stock to it and make it a soup. It’s chili… the options are endless.
I have made a variation of this chili hundreds of times and it always makes me feel better. It will make you feel better too, I promise.
I recently discovered an old file with stuff I had written sometime in the early nineties. It’s like an archaeological dig right inside the house. Anyway, I think I’ll post some of it here.
Here we are again in the church basement on a Palm Sunday. It is time for the Love Feast. I have always thought these were good times to remind ourselves of who we are. This is important because the world is constantly reporting its own version of the news. There is plenty of news.
There are different opinions about what to do with timber, of who should be ruling in Russia, of who should be proposing a stimulus package in D. C. There are different opinions over an acquittal for four policemen in the case concerning Rodney King. It is certain, the world is divided. I am beginning to wonder if the world has a clue. Attempts at logic, rational argument, or maintaining tradition only seem to make us more aware of our differences.
But, here, in the church basement, we do not gather because of differences. We gather in spite of them. It’s not that we can overcome our differences on our own. Trying to do this on our own is what got us into trouble in the first place. That is why we gather for the Love Feast. Because we share the conviction that we are not able to overcome differences on our own. We need Jesus.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I recently found an old file with stuff I had written sometime in the early nineties. It’s like an archaeological dig right inside the house. Anyway, I think I’ll post some of it here.
Every once in a while, we leave our small town on A Saturday morning and visit the big city. The Cleveland skyline grows as we get close and when we arrive at our destination, it is not to purchase a ticket at the Playhouse Square or to see the Indians play baseball. We do not seek the fine restaurants or the abundance of shops. Instead, we tie an apron around our waist and begin to chop vegetables. We are at St. Herman’s House of Hospitality, a monastery on the near west side that serves the homeless.
St. Herman’s has style. It may not be obvious at first. The space is limited. Hallways are narrow. They can only feed forty people at a time. Some of the rooms are in desperate need of paint. The clothes worn by most of the people here are usually seconds, sometimes thirds, they find them in the donation bin or from thrift stores. If you are looking for style in the facility or the fashion you will not find it here.
Nonetheless, St. Herman’s has style. It is distinctly Christian and is lived out in the form of servanthood. This recipe for servanthood involves providing a warm place to stay for some, clothes for others, and making three meals a day for over a hundred people with only donated items. These things are not always easy, but then, style doesn’t just happen. We can all wish the world experienced a lot more of a St. Herman’s kind of style.