Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jumping the Gun

When I started Eats of Eden almost a year ago (this March!), I was already caught up in a nasty case of spring fever.  Actually, no.  Screw spring.  I wanted summer.  And guess what?  I'm feeling the same way right now, watching the sun filter through our windows (that need cleaning) and peeking out at the blue sky as I slog through pages and pages and pages of red-ink revisions on my canning story.  It's actually just 19 pages of revisions, but they are taking me an age.

My thoughts kept sneaking back to the hibernating patio furniture in the garage, the new fire pit waiting patiently in its box from Christmas morning, and the wondrous barbecue that's right next to the garage door for white trash winter grilling.  Because, you know, if you're not white trash you have some year-round outdoor kitchen setup like Bobby Flay.  That's how it works, I think.  

I had to take a break, if not for my sanity at least to dig up something for dinner out of the freezer.  The first thing that I saw was the rack of ribs, drowning in sauce, that was on Costco coupon last week.  Oh good god that sounds perfect.  Messy ribs, with their little charred bits from the grill.  Summer, prepare to be faux-ed.

Under the ribs were a less likely summer staple:  frozen tortellinis.  Also from Costco, of course.  Who doesn't love some bulk-priced inspiration?  Tortellini salad would be a fantastic side dish.  Back inside I started rounding up what were virtually leftovers:  an Italian sausage and bottle of garlic oil that had been in someone's stocking or basket at Christmas, some leftover parsley and chives from last weekend, the last bit of Tuscan Sunset at the bottom of the Penzey's jar.  Tossed together and chilled, I was ready for the best picnic ever... except I'd probably sink and drown in the muddy sinkhole that is everyone's backyard in Oregon February.

What wasn't quite as easy to procure was the pie supplies.  We had to make a trip to the store for cherries and apples, which somehow came out being a $75 bill.  It doesn't seem possible for us to go to a grocer without spending enough money to buy a pretty damn cute outfit.  If only I could cut food out of our budget, I could get all kinds of cute stuff.  When I was filling up the pie plate and cutting the lattice crust, I got out the Williams-Sonoma pie shape cutters.  Matt is constantly amazed at the stuff that we have in the kitchen.  "Where did these come from?!"

"Williams-Sonoma sale bin."  Circa 2008.

"You have more random stuff than anyone I know," he said.  I think my mom might have me beat (turkey-shaped butter molds!!), but that's all right.  "Too bad you can't paint them with food coloring red and green."

Umm, can't?  I don't think so!  That sounds awesome!  He watched, totally tickled, while I assembled my little painting palette.  Unused makeup brush, a few drops of each color, and we were ready to paint.  Probably the most fun I've had in at least a few weeks.  Painting pie crust, edible art--the best of all universes.

The sun was long gone when we fired up the barbecue and sat down for dinner, but the chilly rays infused our conversation with meditations on vegetables we should plant, how we were going to get the grass green again, and whether we should get that second air conditioner.  In between exclaimations about how great everything tasted.  What is it about little burned bits of barbecue that are so irresistible?

I've made quite a few pasta salads the last few years, but we both agreed there was something fantastic about this one.  I think it's the addition of more acidic elements:  capers and red wine vinegar.  It cut the oil and gave it a good, tangy punch.  I'm going to try and post the recipe, but since I always make these salads by just adding stuff until it looks, smells and tastes right, I'm kind of guessing on the amounts.  If you try it out, you'll have to play and adjust it to get it the way you'll want it.  Be prepared to eat lots of tortellini nibbles (sorry, I know life is hard). 

Summertime Tortellini Salad
1 package of frozen or refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/2 a salami, sliced into very small chunks
3 green onions, finely sliced
Handful of fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup garlic-infused oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, minced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 tablespoon Penzey's Tuscan Sunset (or other Italian seasoning)
Good grind of pepper
(if you had some fresh cherry tomatoes and/or feta cheese, that would probably taste great in it too)

Cook tortellini in boiling water according to package directions.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Toss with all ingredients, and refrigerate for at least three hours.  Taste and adjust flavors and seasonings (I had to add a little extra oil, vinegar and salt at this point).  Allow to chill until serving (overnight works to allow flavors to marinate).  Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving time so it's not ice-cold.  That's no good.

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