Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sprouts and Spies

She worked late, with a plan to pick up dinner for herself to eat on the train. I hoped that meant she hadn’t skipped lunch, but she’s a grown-up; sometimes that happens.

I wasn’t called for either of the rehearsals I’d been expecting, so I worked a while longer on a church-music project, and then headed for the market. There wasn’t much we needed, but if she wasn’t going to be home for dinner, there would be Brussels Sprouts. Or broccoli, if the sprouts didn’t look good.

They looked fine; they came pre-shredded. I would have been happy with whole ones, which I would have halved, steamed lightly, and then sautéed with some olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. But the shredded ones would be good, too; I could skip the steaming and make a sort of hot slaw.

I heated two pans–one cast-iron, the other non-stick–fed the cats, and put away the rest of the groceries. Our market makes great burgers studded with cheddar and bacon, but they’re too big; I bought a pair and reformed them into three. Two went into the freezer; one went into the now blazing cast-iron pan. My prep also included opening two windows and cranking the exhaust fan to its “jet engine” setting. I was determined to properly cook a burger without setting off the smoke detector.

When the burger was seared, I stuck it in the oven and turned my attention to the sprouts. Their skillet had a little oil in it; as they started to brown, I added a few drops each of soy sauce and lemon juice, tossed them a bit. I drizzled on a little maple syrup, a teaspoon of water, turned off the heat and lidded the pan. The market suggested sautéing onions and bacon with the sprouts, but my burger had bacon and I didn’t feel like onion.

By the time two slices of crusty bread were toasted, tomato was sliced, and our next-door neighbor had debriefed me of her kitchen-tile purchase, everything was ready–even a lovely cocktail of grapefruit juice, seltzer, a splash of gin, and a few drops of bitters.

She would be better company than an old TV show, but when I’m alone I’ve been making my way through the Jennifer Garner series Aliaswhich I haven’t seen in years. She watched the first couple of episodes with me, but the show didn’t really catch her interest–it’s too suspense-filled for her taste. She tries sprouts now and again, but they’re not her style either. That’s okay; we don’t have to like the same things, and we certainly aren’t going to impose our tastes on each other. The idea of giving her nightmares and indigestion–well, that’s what it gives me. 

So I’ll wait ’til she works late. Sprouts and spies, a burger and a beverage. It could be worse, but I’m ready for her to come home.


Certainly Not the Last Supper

It’s been a year.

The Country House looks very different than it did a year ago. There are beautifully painted walls, shiny flooring, and plush-though-hard-to-keep-clean carpet. There’s no clutter–mostly because we want to live that way, but also partly because we can’t have personal items on display while the house is on the market.

I didn’t think it was possible that we’d post here less frequently in the second half of the year than in the first six months, but I’m sorry to note that we have. It’s not from lack of interest, or lack of stories to tell, and certainly not from lack of good food. It’s just been awfully busy. Shows and meetings and rehearsals and late work nights followed by early work mornings, and, of course, preparations for our wedding. Even a simple, small wedding takes plenty of preparation.

The last two Dinners at weren’t even cooked at home: perfectly adequate Tex-Mex after we finished cat-sitting duties for friends, and chicken sandwiches and fries from the drive-through that was just about to close after a tumultuous evening of theatre and the re-claiming of a lost wallet. Last night, the Dinnerversary, was leftovers. I don’t think either of us remembered the date. (And the leftovers–Moroccan-spiced skirt steak over hummus, served with warm pita bread, farmer’s-market-fresh grape tomatoes and sliced cucumber–were excellent.)

Skirt-steak and hummus, the first time around.

Skirt-steak and hummus, the first time around.

It’s been a year since that first overcooked burger, a year since she fell asleep on the couch the movers just delivered. Well, it hasn’t been a year since she fell asleep on the couch; that still happens now and again. Burgers get overcooked from time to time, too, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Romance isn’t gone. Good cooking isn’t abandoned. We do what we can with the supplies we have, with the time we have, with the energy we have.

We took a break from commuting and rented an apartment in New York during my busiest month. It was the home of an acquaintance of mine, a composer and music director who was working out of town and visiting his family. That temporary City House was nowhere near as lovely as her former apartment–and certainly not as beautiful as the suburbs were on weekends. Sadly, it wasn’t even as convenient as we hoped it would be. It’s giving us reason to think maybe we shouldn’t move after all. Even if we do, we’ll still update this journal, at least from time to time. Even if we don’t have a Country House, we’ll still have Dinner.

Not Another Pizza Night

In addition to getting through the week without ordering takeout, we wanted to get through the week without an emergency trip to the market–and to use things that were already in the fridge.

“This pizza dough has to be used this week,” she said. “And this sauce.”


After a long day of office time and rehearsals, I headed for the train station to collect her, but I was late; she started walking and was almost home by the time I caught up with her. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of the brutally hot and humid days we’d had during production week; still, she was ready for a shower.

I didn’t want to use the oven and heat the kitchen, so I gathered everything I needed, took it to the deck, and lit the grill. The dough stretched beautifully, the coals were ready, the grill-grate was clean and ready. I oiled the dough and laid it out gently, per instructions.

She came to the deck, refreshed and happy. We talked for a moment. Well, maybe two moments.  However long it was, it was just longer than it takes for pizza dough to go from beautiful to charred black.

We put the pizza toppings on leftover rice, heated it in the microwave, and called it a day. Just not a pizza.

The Almost-as-Easy Way Out

This is not a sombrero.

This is not a sombrero.

It was a perfect night for takeout.

I’d had a very full day–morning in the office, followed by three rehearsals, each in a different town.  It was fun, but exhausting. I was tempted to call and ask what she might like me to pick up on the way home. But we had prepared for such a possibility. I’d grilled a skirt steak, some chicken sausages, and a pair of chicken breasts; there were plenty of things we could easily form into meals. After far too much time (and money) spent in restaurants during my summer show’s production week, we were not going to take the easy way out.

Speedy Semi-Moroccan Semi-Stew

Add 1 T oil to a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Boil 2 cups water.

While the oil warms, do the chopping:
1/2 green pepper
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 tomato
1 pre-cooked chicken breast
A handful of salted peanuts
A handful of green beans

Obviously it would be easy–and maybe even prudent–to double all these quantities, but I’d grilled some vegetables on Sunday night to go with the sausages, and taken some thick slices out of a tomato for steak sandwiches; these  amounts were what was on hand.

Use 1 cup of the water to soak 2/3 cup whole-wheat couscous. (Adjust these quantities as necessary according to package directions.)

Use the other cup of water to reconstitute a handful of raisins and 4 or 5 roughly chopped dried apricots.

Sauté the onion and pepper, then add the tomato and beans.

Add the chicken, fruit, and 1/2 t Marrakesh spice blend. (It looked and smelled to me like chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and salt.)

When the chicken is warmed, add a handful of baby spinach, and half of the remaining fruit-soaking liquid.  When the spinach is wilted a bit and the liquid is reduced a little, remove the skillet from heat.

Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add a little butter if you’re feeling frisky. Pack the couscous into measuring cups, ramekins, or even cookie cutters, and turn out the  molded grain into the center of 2 shallow bowls.

Spoon semi-stew around the couscous. Top with the crushed peanuts. Spoon any remaining liquid over the couscous.

Serves 2, who will probably wish you’d doubled the quantities to have leftovers for lunch.

I’d walked in the door at 9:35 PM. Dinner was on the table at 10. Not the easy way out, perhaps, but the almost-as-easy. Probably the healthier, too.

She put down her spoon. “You did take a picture, didn’t you?”

I think that was her way of saying dinner was all right.