Tags: baking, Basil, Chevre, Chibes, Chili Flakes, Dough, flatbread, garlic, goat cheese, Herbs, Lemon, Parsley, Pide, recipes, Turkish Flatbread
So..I’m making cheese, goat cheese – chevre to be exact. Valerie from A Canadian Foodie has challenged a bunch of us to start making cheese from scratch with her Cheesepalooza challenge. I was extremely excited when she announced this challenge because I’ve always wanted to dabble a little in artisan cheese making.
No, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will not be performing, but they will be making an appearance in my cheese!
I’ve made cheese from scratch before..Ricotta and Macarpone. I’ve also made Paneer, but I didn’t blog it..so I do have some ‘cheese’ experience. However, all three were made with cow’s milk. This time I’m working with goat’s milk and as mentioned above, making chevre. I love, love, love chevre, but the first recipe provided, from the book Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin contains something called C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter. Although I’m 99.9% sure it’s perfectly fine and won’t result in a tree growing out of my ear 20 years down the road, I just didn’t like the sound of it.
C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter. Mesophilic disease comes to mind. Can’t they call it something like..Me So Making Yummy Cheese from Scratch Stuff?
I emailed Valerie about this and she linked me to a recipe for chevre on her blog that uses buttermilk in lieu of the bacteria/organism laden
Mesophilic Disease, umm..Mesophilic stuff.
I prefer to keep my food as natural and chemical-free as possible…even in my artery-clogging desserts, SO, as long as I know exactly what’s going into the food I’m making..and it doesn’t have numbers attached to it..it’s all cool.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is how I cook and bake. I eat my fair share of foods that contain ingredients with numbers attached to them. Golden Oreo, anyone? Yep, I take care of other people, but occasionally shove Golden Oreos down my gullet at warp speed.
Look, I love ALL cheese..so I’m sure my body is saturated with C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter, but since I have a choice in this chevre matter..I’m choosing not to use it.
Now, rennet is a different story because I read the Little House on the Prairie series, and in Little House in the Big Woods, Ma used rennet to make cheese…and they used the rennet directly from the animal’s stomach lining back then…
Ma added the previous night’s skimmed milk to the cooled milk from the morning milking and put it on the stove to heat. A bit of rennet inside a cloth is soaked in warm water. Once the milk is warm, she squeezes all of the water out of the rennet in the cloth. She adds the rennet water to the milk and stirs it well. The milk mixture is left in a warm place by the stove until it thickens to a quivering mass.
The mass was cut with a long knife into cubes. The cubes were allowed to sit until the curb separated from the whey. The curds and whey were placed in a cloth and allowed to drain. When all of the whey was drained, the curds were placed in a pan and salted. The curds were then placed in the cheese hoop to be pressed.
Once all the whey had been pressed out, Ma trimmed the cheese, put a tight cloth around it, and buttered it. Each day, she wiped the cheese with a wet cloth and rubbed it with butter until the cheese was ripe and had a hard rind on it. – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Well..that’s how you make cheese to this day, albeit with a lot more convenience and modern apparatus.
So I made the cheese using goat’s milk, buttermilk (which actually contains the Mesophilic stuff, a little fact alerted to me by a reader, but I just felt better using buttermilk – it’s a mind thing) and a rennet tablet crushed with some water. It turned out fantastic. I wanted to blow this whole post off and eat it all with a spoon.
But I didn’t. Thankfully.
It was so fresh that it had some subtle sweet tones to it along with a slightly salty tang. The texture was extremely creamy, as it should be. I think everyone should make their own chevre because it’s too damn easy not to! The rennet and buttermilk gel the goat’s milk after sitting for 12 hours..so it’s similar to the texture of yogurt. Have you ever made yogurt cheese? Well, essentially, once the goat’s milk has formed into a jelly like mass, you do the same thing you’d do when making yogurt cheese – wrap up the milk jelly (I cut mine into pieces) in cheesecloth, tie it up tight, and let the whey drain over a strainer into a bowl overnight.
The next morning I had creamy, dreamy chevre! I got about 16 ounces of cheese..so, after eating a few spoonfuls (uhh….4 ounces).. I added crushed red-hot chili pepper flakes, herbs, garlic and lemon zest to the rest of it..rolling them into cheeseballs (I love cheeseballs as one word..because it tickles the kid inside of me) and packing them into ball jars with a light olive oil. I used the other half of my spicy chevre as a filling for a Turkish bread called Pide. Pide – Pizza – Pita..you know..flatbread, in any language.
The only difference is…you fold the dough on each side partially over the filling in the middle, so you kind of have an oval slipper with some of the filling showing, which you can see in the photos.
If you have a moment..head on over to Valerie’s blog to see the chevre round-up, HERE. You’ll be amazed and inspired, and hopefully it will inspire you enough make some yourself and/or take part in some of the Cheesepalooza challenges!
Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre Filled Turkish Flatbread (Pide)
Yields two flatbreads
Inspired by Fine Dining Lovers
Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre
12- ounces fresh chevre
2 garlic cloves, minced, then mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small lemon, zested
2 tablespoons red hot pepper chili flakes (you can add more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
1 cup of chopped herbs of your choice. I used parsley, chives and basil
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon neutral oil,, such as vegetable
4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 1/4 to 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
DIRECTIONS FOR SPICY, GARLIC, HERB GOAT CHEESE:
1. In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Set aside, covered at room temperature, to let the flavors blend while you make the dough. If you just want to make the goat cheese balls in olive oil, refrigerate the goat cheese mixture until firm, about an hour, then roll into balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and pack into jars with olive oil. Tap sealed jars on counter to remove any air bubbles. I used 8 ounce ball jars. The cheese balls in olive oil will keep for a month in the refrigerator.
DIRECTIONS FOR FLATBREAD DOUGH:
1. Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water until foamy, then mix with the flour, salt, oil , yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup water. Knead to a smooth dough, adding more flour or water, if needed. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour or until doubled.
2. Gently punch down dough by folding it over itself. On a floured board, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F – Remove the top rack. You will be using the rack on the middle shelf.
3. While working with one piece of dough, keep other covered. Roll the piece nto an oval..about 14 inches by 10 inches. Place dough on a parchment lines baking sheet. Alternatively, you can use a pizza peel and baking stone, which will give you a slightly crisper bread, but either way is fine. Spread half the goat cheese mixture (6 ounces) down the center, leaving about 2 to 3 inches on each side. Fold each side of the dough toward the middle, sealing and tapering the ends so you have a slipper looking flatbread with some of the filling showing down the center (see photos above).
4. Bake flatbread about 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown (I drizzled a little olive oil over the top before baking which made it brown a little more than it should have). Quickly remove bread from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before slicing. Repeat all the above with second ball of dough and remaining 6 ounces of cheese.
I’m submitting this Turkish Pide with Goat Cheese to this month’s #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchess, Jamie of Life’s a Feast and Barbara of Creative Culinary and to Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.
Now to Bad Boy First Love Part 17. I thought this part would be the end, but it isn’t. Part 18 is definitely the end, I can say that with 100% assurance because I already wrote most of it.
If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE, Part 14B is HERE , Part 15 is HERE, and Part 16 is HERE.
He continued to hug me…whispering in my ear something I’d dreamed of hearing from him for so long, especially during my starry-eyed teenage moments.
“Lisa, I want to spend my life with you..I want to marry you”
Talk about bad timing. It kind of made me sick.
“You didn’t answer my questions!” I sobbed to him
His answer was quick and to the point. ”No, No, No and absolutely NOT!”
I believed he didn’t love her…but I wasn’t sure about the three ‘No’s’ before it. Regardless, I still had to think about him with another girl.
I continued asking questions. Is she pretty? Where did you take her out? Did you kis….I stopped short. I knew what the answer would be. I had no doubt in my mind that he kissed her and I didn’t want to hear it.
You see, kissing, to women, is the most intimate thing you can do with someone. Some of us would rather find out our guy boinked the chick in a drunken stupor – as crazy as it sounds.
Of course he told me she was nowhere near as beautiful as me. Whatever. They all say that, don’t they?
He said he took her to the movies. Oh, great, he probably held her hand, rubbing her index finger with his thumb, or kept his hand on her knee or thigh throughout the movie like he always did with me. Suddenly, I didn’t want to know anymore. I put my hand up, which I could barely see through my tears, to signal him to stop.
The Mazda RX7 had morphed into a confessional booth and I wanted out of it – PRONTO. I opened the car door and started to walk, breathing in the warm, night air – feeling it dry my tears. Numbness was setting in. He came after me and took my hand in his. We walked in silence for a long while. Now I really wanted to get back to school. I needed to escape the pain desperately.
He finally spoke. ”You were never there when I called and when you did call me back, you seemed so happy there without me. I was convinced you were seeing someone else – it hurt pretty bad.”
He waited. I knew what he wanted, maybe to somehow absolve what he’d done. I wasn’t going to give it to him and not because I was hiding it, but because I didn’t want him to feel the same pain he had just inflicted on me. This was why we made the promise of not telling each other ..unless we actually fell in love with someone else, which of course would be the end of us.
SO, no hockey guy confessions from me. ”I was just having a good time with my new friends, enjoying Boston and studying my ass off well into morning – I barely slept” I responded coldly.
He took me in his arms…rubbing my back to melt the ice and rigidity in my limbs. Once he buried his face in my neck…and I felt tears again, it worked. I relaxed and gave it all back. I knew he loved me..maybe now more than ever. I stared at the Empire State Building over his shoulder – the top was lit up in blue that night. I wondered what it stood for. I was mesmerized, so much so that I almost had a coronary when he turned me around and hoisted me up on the ledge of the stone wall that separated the street from the long, steep hill down to the Hudson River. I thought I was going over for a split-second.
Yeah..just kill me so you never have to see the pain in my eyes and feel the guilt.
He stood between my legs so we were face to face – his arms around my waist.
“Babe…I don’t want anyone but you..I won’t date anyone else ever again if you don’t want me to. Just because you’re away at school doesn’t mean we have to see other people”
I froze. As crazy in love with him as I was..I couldn’t make that promise because once back in Boston, it was a whole new world he was not a part of..a new world where the ‘other’ Lisa would soon emerge..the one who was growing up – the one who had the ability to put him ‘away’ to dull the pain. There was only one answer I could come up with..one that drives men crazy nuts..
He seemed to accept that answer for the time being. I could tell he thought the ‘whatever’ was because I was still upset from his confession, and he didn’t want to push it.
The nick in our shiny apple was now a small hole..clearly visible to the eye, He hugged me to him.. burying his face in the crook of my neck again. As I felt his tears run down my collarbone, my love for him exploded. I kissed his head, inhaling the sweet, familiar scent of his hair..little darts of pain shooting through my heart at the thought of another girl smelling that.
He lifted his head and stared into my eyes. Oh, wow..that stare with those intense blue eyes always killed me. I melted…completely held hostage by those eyes. I felt weak. I tried to return his gaze without toppling backwards over the wall. It never went away..the feeling was as intense as the first time he stared into my eyes the night we met. Then, the thought of him staring into another girl’s eyes like that made my stomach churn butter into bile.
SO, that’s how it was..every little look, every little touch, every little nuance that used to belong only to us, had now been shared with someone else, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There wasn’t a thing he could do without my thinking ‘ I wonder if he did that with her?’
It was all too overwhelming for me. Leaving him was going to be harder now, but the distraction and separation was desperately needed.
Two days later..after one of the hardest goodbyes of my life with him, I drove back to school with my mother. The first half of the drive, I had to keep wiping away tears. The second half the excitement started to build. I couldn’t wait to see my new friends..I couldn’t wait to see our super modern dorm/apartment that we applied for winter of freshman year since there was a waiting list.
I was rooming with one of my new friends and two strangers in the other bedroom. The other friend, the first girl I met who became my best friend freshman year, was supposed to room with us, but her Mother didn’t get the deposit in on time. It was ok, though..since lots of other friends had got in and she’d be practically living with any of us when she wanted.
By the time we hit the border of CT/MA..I was excited to see hockey guy. What was wrong with me?
We pulled up around 10 pm. A few friends were outside waiting. My excitement grew as I looked up at my new digs. We were on the 9th floor with a sparkling view of downtown Boston and the Prudential Center, glittering with lights, smack dab in the middle of our expansive living room window.
After getting all of my stuff up to our apartment, bidding adieu to Mommy dearest, who refused to stay the night…even though I offered her my bed, I ran from apartment to apartment with my roommate saying hi to other friends - marveling at each other’s newly svelte bods..the freshman 15 dead and buried – big, fat eating disorders sprouting from the earth around its tombstone.
I was giddy. The sadness from Dreamboat’s confession and our teary goodbye was fading. This was just what the doctor ordered.
Everyone was chattering about a huge ‘welcome back’ bash the next night at a well-known guy’s huge off-campus apartment. I wondered if hockey guy would be there. We were all going.
After first day class sign-up…socializing etc, it was party time. I took extra special care in choosing an outfit without looking like I took extra special care in choosing an outfit. Black jeans and a snug white, sweatery top to show off me minus 15 and more.
The party was in full swing when we got there..this huge apartment packed to the gills…loaded with familiar and some not so familiar faces, but I was looking for one person. I scanned the large living room..and then I saw him, in a corner with some of the hockey players. Damn, he looked good.
I made my way toward him slowly..weaving through bodies, but talking to people along the way so it wouldn’t seem obvious. He finally saw me. We exchanged glances…nibbling and lollipopping around who was going to approach who first…like two animals sniffing each other out from afar during mating season.
After about 20 minutes of this..I turned and started to walk away from the game. What was I doing anyway? I loved Dreamboat…there was no need to start this up again. I ran into a girl from my freshman sociology class and she pulled me over to talk to her. After some light chat..I made my way to the bar in the living room to get a diet coke. He intercepted me, poking me in the stomach.
“Hey, you trying to avoid me?” he said with a grin
I laughed…nervous laughter.
“You look great” he said softly, not taking his eyes off of mine. ”I thought a lot about you this summer..are you married yet?” he teased with a twinkle in his eye… grabbing my left hand to check my ring finger.
My legs turned to jello and I blushed. Woah..what the hell?
We talked for a bit, then decided to go for a walk once the cops came due to the noise. We took a leisurely walk around the campus. It was a beautiful night..warm but the scent of Fall was already starting to perfume the air. We talked about our summers…we talked about his upcoming season..we talked about some new movies. The point is, we talked, about everything and anything – and I needed that.
When we got close to my dorm/apartment, he stopped and leaned down to kiss me. I backed away. I wasn’t that sleazy…I loved Dreamboat and I wasn’t going to just kiss hockey guy, especially so soon, to get back at him for telling me about his little rendezvous. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, but Dreamboat did.
When I came home for Thanksgiving break..one night after a movie, as we sat in his car kissing, he stopped and pulled out a small, velvet black box…tickling my cheek with it playfully.
Part 18, coming soon.
Tags: Asian Buns, Asian Vinaigrette, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Crockpot Pulled Chicken, Honey Sesame Chicken, Pulled Chicken, Red Cabbage, Red Onions, Sandwiches, Sesame Chicken, slaw, Sliders, Slow Cooker Chicken, Snowpeas
We’re all familiar with loads of twists on pulled pork, pulled beef, pulled chicken – pulled any meat that can be shredded into juicy strands after being simmered in a sauce for a few hours – then slopped on a bun..which soaks up some of the sauce. I’ve seen riffs on Asian pulled pork and chicken, but I’ve never seen the following Asian take on it until I scrolled through my blog assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club.
Does any carnivore NOT love Sesame or General Tso’s chicken? Well, the blog I was assigned, Eat Little, Eat Big..authored and photographed by Susie, who just so happens to live on the beautiful island of Maui (lucky!), came up with this brilliant idea. She simmered chicken breasts in a similar sauce used for sesame chicken – in a crockpot- for a few hours. Voila, Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken!
Initially, I was going to make her Crunchy Oven Baked Fish Sticks, but then I decided that there was no way I was turning on the oven in this oppressive heat. We’re talking 98 – 100 degrees the past week, so I loved that this dish was slowly simmered in a crockpot..or slow cooker, whichever you prefer to call it.
Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone. First, I toasted the sesame seeds, then I omitted the ketchup and used tomato paste instead. I used Chili Paste (Sambal Oelek) in lieu of chili flakes, added rice wine vinegar for a bit of tang, and a little chicken stock for more sauce.
I also changed the cooking time since I was starting with semi-frozen chicken breasts, plus…to get that really shredded texture – I felt more time was needed, semi-frozen or not. To thicken the sauce after simmering, I made a slurry of cornstarch and chicken broth, instead of using cornstarch alone. I grated some fresh ginger into the sauce simply because I couldn’t fathom sesame chicken without ginger.
Before I even finished reading the recipe, I had decided to pile this pulled chicken on buns. At the bottom of Susie’s recipe – she suggested doing just that. SO, I piled this chicken on buns, but not just any buns. I had baked some plain buns using an extra batch of dough I made from the Daring Bakers Char Siu Bao recipe back in Dec, ’11, and froze them. Insta – buns! For the sliders, I used store-bought slider sized potato buns.
I love Asian bun dough. It’s soft and almost velvety, so I knew they would make great buns for burgers or sandwiches. I’m so glad I did that because I couldn’t think of a more perfect vessel for this pulled sesame chicken. Of course, you can use any kind of bun you’d like. Sprouted buns work really well because they’re sturdy.
Finally, you know how much I’ve waxed on and on about my love of natural rainbows incorporated into dishes? What better than an array of colorful vegetables to pile on these buns with the chicken? We’ve got shredded red cabbage (the purple), a mix of red, yellow and orange bell peppers, and blanched snow peas - all tossed together with a light vinaigrette. This is my summer of Eat the Rainbow.
By the way, these are REALLY good, and perfect for any party.
Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken Sandwiches with Rainbow Slaw
Inspired by Susie of Eat Little, Eat Big
Makes a ton of sliders, a half-ton of average sized sandwiches and maybe 6-8 unhinge your jaw, sandwiches
Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken
4 semi-frozen chicken breasts, cut in half (starting with semi-frozen chicken seems to help it shred better once cooked), OR, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
1 teaspoon chili paste (more if you like a lot of heat)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, the amount depending on your preference
burger buns or slider buns
Note – If your chicken breasts are kind of big, I would suggest doubling the sauce ingredients poured over the breasts in the crockpot. The cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of chicken stock for the thickening slurry remains the same, but add 2 tablespoons sesame oil instead of 1 when the sauce is thickened and done.
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 small orange bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin (OR two carrots, peeled and shredded)
About 1/4 a small head red cabbage, shredded
1 very small red onion or half a red onion, sliced thin
1/4 lb snowpeas, blanched, each snowpea sliced in half vertically and horizontally. No worries about peas falling out – it just makes it better
Note – Slice and chop vegetables smaller for sliders. If you want a really shredded slaw, use the shredding disk or very thin slicing disk in your food processor for all the veggies (stack the snowpeas to shred). I used a knife that needed to be sharpened, so I couldn’t slice the veggies as thin as I would have liked. It’s easier to pile a more shredded slaw on the sliders or sandwiches.
5 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced with kosher salt until it’s a paste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
squeeze of lime juice
freshly ground black or white pepper (to taste)
SALAD AND VINAIGRETTE DIRECTIONS:
1. Combine all of the vegetables in a bowl.
2. Make Vinaigrette. Place all ingredients in a jar, cover tightly, and shake vigorously until blended. Drizzle your preferred amount over vegetables and toss.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the flavors blend in the fridge for a few houes. You can use it immediately, but it’s much better after marinating for a few hours. SO, make this salad while the chicken is cooking.
PULLED SESAME CHICKEN DIRECTIONS:
1. Season frozen chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place in the crockpot.
2. Mix all the sauce ingredients together except for the sesame oil, sesame seeds, cornstarch and 2 extra tablespoons of chicken stock. Pour over seasoned, frozen chicken in the crockpot.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, until the chicken starts to fall apart. Remove chicken from sauce and shred with two forks. Set aside in a bowl.
4. Pour sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir together the cornstarch and chicken stock until smooth, then pour into the simmering sauce. Cook until the sauce has thickened, whisking constantly – it only takes a minute or two.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Pour over shredded chicken and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper if it needs it.
6. Assemble sandwiches. Cut buns in half – toast if you like. Place a heaping spoonful of rainbow slaw on the bottom bun. Top that with a heaping spoonful of the pulled chicken. Pour some extra sauce over chicken and top with other half bun. Enjoy with plenty of napkins!
Click on the blue frog below to see what my fellow SRC Group A participants chose from their assigned blogs.
Now to Part 14B (I know, I know – will it ever end?)) of Bad Boy First Love. If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, and Part 14A is HERE.
I decided, for all parties involved, there was no need to say anything. It wasn’t fatal, no harm was done – and if I opened my big mouth, there’d be plenty of harm done.
I fell asleep to his sexy voice.
The next morning I woke up with the phone cord wrapped around my neck and the handset hanging off the edge of the bed. Although I had cordless phones..I was kind of attached to my ecelectic, mulit-colored corded phone. It meshed with my bedroom.
Great, I could have strangled myself in my sleep and college would be off. I wondered if the roommate ‘death’ rule would apply to roommates who had not yet met me? I bet they’d love me anyway..considering the straight A’s.
I realized I never got to say a proper goodnight/goodbye to him, but I didn’t want to wake him up. He had two more days of work left before he came home to North Jersey, where I would no longer be. I decided I’d phone him as soon as I got to Boston. It was already 11 am, and I hadn’t done my ‘scan’, and felt completely unprepared. This led to several hours of ‘scanning’, which led to many fights with my parents, which led to me taking off in the car to bid one last adieu to my friends, which led to us not leaving until 5 pm.
To add insult to injury, the large SUV my father had rented, since I was basically bringing my whole life to Boston, was not there. The guy at the rental car place made a mistake and rented it to someone else. All they had left was a medium hatchback. This meant the backseat went down, so my whole life was crammed in so tight, that some of it was spilling over the front seat, where I had the misfortune of sitting…in…between…my…parents.
I don’t have the kind of relationship with my parents that most do, so this was pure hell on top of hell, with a side of red hot forks poking every cell in my brain.
The whole drive was literally hell on wheels..so much so, that at one point, I insisted they let me out of the car on some highway in Connecticut. I walked along the grassy divider in the dark for about 15 minutes before they were able to find an exit..turn around and come back, but truth be told, it was the most serene 15 minutes I’d had all day.
There was actually one positive side to all of this wrath..it distracted me from missing Dreamboat. The anger was like a warm blanket shielding me from the cold pain that was looming deep in my soft, mushy core – tapping me every so often, trying to break through.
Around 8 pm, my father decided he didn’t want to drive anymore..and being a stickler to rules, wouldn’t allow me or my Mother to drive since his name was the only name on the rental agreement.
He pulled off at an exit..having no idea where he was going, until he saw the bright lights of a Howard Johnsons. We were in Worcester, MA, only an hour away from Boston. I begged him to keep going since there was a Freshman orientation the next morning at 9 am. He refused. Well..at least I could try and call Dreamboat later on that night.
Not so fast.
He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way he was paying for any long distance calls from a motel phone. Looks like I was going to have to will myself to sleep. Between the disappointment of not getting to school the night before the first day to start meeting people and my roommates and the melancholia of missing Dreamboat, there was not much more I could do. I watched movies until 2 am, then finally fell asleep, tossing and turning.
I heard my room phone ringing incessantly and sporadic knockings on the door throughout my slumber, but ignored them so I could sleep more. I finally woke up at 11am. My parents had already spent 4 hours going out to breakfast and walking around. I’d missed orientation – so there was no need to rush anymore. I relaxed. Oh, wait..check-out was at noon, so I was told I better start rushing. Figures.
When we finally arrived in Boston, I found out I had been assigned to an upperclassman dorm since I had changed schools at the last-minute. All of the shiny, modern, buildings and towers of freshman dorms were already filled up by the time my father sent them the dough. My new home was an old, shoddy, broken down, building, and my dorm room was a kitchen, tiny bathroom. and two bedrooms – mine with a bunk bed.
Sound familiar? I spend two Augusts with a kitchen, bathroom and tiny sleeping quarters. But that never mattered because I was there to be with Dreamboat. Now, I just had to endure it, and enduring it might have been easier if the whole place didn’t have tilted floors. Yep, tilted floors..a permanent slope in my dorm/apartment. I thought about roller skates.
I still wish I staged a fall and sued.
By this time, the anger between me and my parents had reached a breaking point. After unloading my life, with some help from some nice, strong upperclassmen, and dumping it..along with me, into my new, tilted dorm room/apartment, with a kitchen – they left me sitting on the lower bunk – alone. There was no phone hooked up to phone Dreamboat or my friends, so the alone soon turned to lonely. My roommates were nowhere to be found. My bunk mate had already unpacked, and taken the bottom bunk I was sitting on.
Laissez-faire, I thought . I slowly started to unpack my life into this dump.
My roommate turned out to be a freshman who changed schools at the last minute too, and the two in the other bedroom were a sophomore and a junior. Unfortunately, the only thing me and my freshman bunk mate had in common was being freshman, but that was good enough. We stayed up talking a while, and then I wrote a letter to Dreamboat to let him know my phone wouldn’t be hooked up for a few days.
If only cell phones were what they are today and we had the world-wide web, video calls etc..the transition would have been so much easier.
The next morning..I woke up feeling rejuvenated – a whole new life was starting for me. I quickly showered and dressed, skipping breakfast because I needed to be in a certain hall by 9am. They were gathering freshman, in alphabetical order per lecture hall.
As I walked to the main quad where this Hall was located, I was feeling more and more excited with each step. Fellow students at my university packed the streets and campus. It was like lunch hour in NYC – not to mention, Boston is rife with colleges and universities, all within a short distance of one another.
I took a right turn into the quad, and I was blown away. It was akin to what I felt it would be like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river room for the first time. All the students – bright and shiny, from measly freshman like me, to huge athletes walking in packs together, bags hung over their shoulders for practice later.
A group of guys were playing hacky sack. Is there a college quad anywhere in the US where there isn’t a bunch of guys playing hacky sack on a nice day? I’d put money on it that there isn’t.
Regardless, I was so mesmerized by it all, I barely made it to the hall on time. I broke out of my spell, and ran to my assigned last names beginning with R to U lecture hall, tripping up the steps several times. per usual..and grabbed a seat.
Within minutes of taking a seat, I met the girl who would become one of my best friends throughout my freshman year. Finally, something positive!
After being assigned counselors to help put our schedules together, and a long visit to the campus bookstore, where we spent mucho money on the books we needed for our classes, and of course, lots of other frivolous stuff, including almost everything with the university logo on it and several t-shirts and sweatshirts for Dreamboat, we went back to her dorm.
She was living in one of the beautiful, modern freshman dorms, so in time, I was practically living there. I met a bunch of great people in that dorm who also became good friends, and soon, I was considered part of that dorm..although I was living a hobo lifestyle between dorms.
The good thing about having my shoddy, upperclassmen dorm to go back to occasionally, was the quiet. We all went there when we wanted a little peace or had to study for an exam. The other good thing was – my upperclassmen roommates. They guided us where to go for fun..introducing us to the ‘big’ pub on the main avenue of our campus, where they let everyone in. They would simply blow a horn if the ABC showed up, so we could all sneak out the back before they could check for ID’s.
This was the place almost everyone went after hockey, football and basketball wins. Weekend nights, the place was packed to the gills with students of all ages, and lots of athletes..checking out the new freshman crop of girls. It was hard to tell who played for what team, outside of the hulky giants, who were obviously football players.
The first night we all went there was a blast. We danced to the video jukebox..checked out the guys (well..they did), and I sipped one Seabreeze all night. Like I said, I can’t hold my alcohol – one slip, meaning one large sip, and I’d be introducing my dinner to the pavement outside.
I finally hit the bottom of the drink with a few loud sips of air, so I walked to the bar to return my glass. The bartender, who they called ‘Sully’, slid another Seabreeze my way.
“Umm..I didn’t order that, there must be a mistake”
Sully motioned behind me “It’s from him..He bought it for you”
I slowly turned to see a tall, dark-haired, handsome athlete sitting on a divider facing away from the jukebox.
Right at that very moment, I realized our phone was hooked up two days before and I hadn’t called Dreamboat. The excitement of meeting new people, new classes, and the city of Boston, had dominated my first week of school so much, I actually..and IT was SO hard to fathom this..
FORGOT about him a little.
I turned to this handsome stranger, smiled and said “Thank you”
I didn’t want to pursue it further than that, but he walked over and introduced himself.
He was in his junior year, from a town on Cape Cod, a hockey player, went to prep school, and was a draft pick for the Bruins..but decided to finish college first. Before I knew it, we were conversing like old friends, even after the bar closed, sitting on the edge of a fountain in the courtyard of his dorm which was less than a block from my tilted dorm.
I made fun of his New England accent, like I did with all the people from MA or any New England state, I’d met. He loved my imitation of it..then told me I had no accent, so he made fun of Jersey instead. Nothing new…everyone does. ”What exit?” being a fave.
We were laughing a lot in between the lighthearted chat. Time just flew by.
Me and Dreamboat never had 2 hour conversations like this, even the first night we met. In fact, most of our conversing was with our lips. Dreamboat’s voice blasted in my head..
“..you’ll meet other guys..rich college guys, you won’t want me anymore”
Damn, I missed him.
That looming pain that had been first stymied by the fierce anger at my parents, then all the newness of college life, finally broke through, and it hurt, it hurt like the sting of a thousand jellyfish – which brought me back to that magical summer night we reconnected. I felt my eyes well up.
I abruptly stood up, told hockey guy it was a pleasure to meet him, but I needed to get some sleep.
He stood up too..then asked, “Can I get your number? I’d like to take you to Faneuil Hall and that restaurant in the North End I told you about. I want to show you around Boston”
I wasn’t lying when I told him this..
“We just got our phone hooked up, so I don’t know the number off-hand, plus, like I said, I have a boyfriend back home whom I love very much”
I hated the conflicting feelings that were coming on like gangbusters and confusing the hell out of me. I loved Dreamboat so much it hurt, but this guy was intriguing to me..I loved the conversation we had. What was happening?
He smiled, not quite as dazzling as Dreamboat’s, but nice.
“Everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend back home when they’re freshman. They usually don’t last, well, mine didn’t” He said with a chuckle.
Then some weird fate kicked in. My junior year roommate came walking by with some friends..calling my name out in jest..seeing I was talking to this hunky guy. She walked over, since she knew him, and started extolling my virtues to him.
She gave him our phone number.
I gave her the evil eye.
I walked back to our dorm with her and her friends, now listening to her extoll his virtues. She was tipsy..
“Lisha..you don’t undershtand, he’sh not a womanizer, he’sh such a good guy, and SO FOXY..you’d be crazshy not to go out with him!”
I adamantly stood my ground. ”I’m madly in love with Dreamboat – not gonna happen”
As she started skipping sprightly ahead of us, she uttered the words I’d heard far too many times the past week..
“Those relationships never last – you’re young, you’re in college now..enjoy it!”
I called Dreamboat the next morning..which was Saturday. I had forgotten he’d nailed down a cushy construction job from a man who owned a company near him in North Jersey and spent weekends in Toms River, a few doors down from his shore house. Part of that job entailed working Saturdays. I tried again around 6 pm. He answered..my heart fluttered.
He responded with happiness and surprise..
“Hi, killer..I got your letter, but then I heard nothing, I thought you’d already met some rich college boy and cast me off”
I thought of the hockey player..the timing was uncanny.
Suddenly, I needed to see him more than ever..those weird, conflicting feelings were front and center and I wanted them to go away. I grabbed the teddy bear with his t-shirt and pressed it to my face..inhaling. His scent was fading.
“Come see me, baby…drive up here next weekend..I miss you..need you”
He seemed relieved that I still loved and wanted him..
“I want to, sweetheart, I can’t stop missing you and thinking about you. – BUT..”
Ohhh..the inevitable ‘BUT’
“…I don’t think the Mazda would make it both ways”
OK, not that bad a ‘BUT’. He was right.
“Then fly to me” I whimpered pathetically
“You know I work Saturdays, baby..I just started, I can’t take time off after 1 week. Why don’t you come home and spend the weekend with me?”
My parents would never pay for a flight home after only 2 weeks of school. I would have to stick it out until Thanksgiving.
I dropped the subject, then started telling him about my first week of school. I guess my enthusiasm bothered him a little. He was sort of hoping I wouldn’t like it so I’d transfer to a local college and told me that in a half-joking way. His tone changed from sweet, loving and happy, to sad and kind of cold.
The conversation was turning morose rather quickly, plus, as I mentioned in a previous part, he wasn’t a phone person. The phone for him was for making plans to meet up, not 2-hour conversations that most women think nothing of. BUT- he tried with me..I’ll give him that.
I didn’t know what else to say..so I told him I loved him.
He responded in kind..but added “..maybe too much”
What was that supposed to mean?
He read my mind..”I’ve never loved anyone this much. Lisa. Knowing I won’t see you for 11 weeks, sucks – it really sucks”
I whispered softly “It sucks for me too, baby”
I hate awkward silences (and still hate them to this day), so, I started rambling, which is what I always do when there’s awkward silence. I can’t help it.
“I bought you a bunch of t-shirts and sweatshirts at the campus bookstore. I can mail them to you if you want – one is red with…”
He interrupted..he knew this part of me very well, but couldn’t kiss me to stop it.
“Thank you, sweetheart, but you can give them to me when you see me – I want them from you, not a box”
This was the most uncomfortable conversation I’d ever had with him. I settled down and responded with an “OK”, feeling beaten.
We said our goodbyes, since the call was about to get very expensive (like I mentioned – lucky college kids with internet and cell phones these days), and made plans for him to call me the following Wednesday.
I sat on my top bunk for a long while – dissecting and analyzing the conversation in my head, interspersed with the infamous mantra I’d been hearing since I arrived..
Those relationships never last..Those relationships never last..Those relationships never last..
Dreamboat called that Wednesday, but it was another awkward conversation. I had to keep convincing myself he wasn’t a phone person..and to not take it to heart. We spoke more times, for weeks after, but it was just never the same. He was hurting, I was hurting. It had now been almost a month, and the 7 or so weeks left before we’d see each other again seemed like an eternity.
After our last phone call..I felt down for the next couple days – too down..so much so that my energy was sapped. I wondered if I was falling into a depression.
I ran into hockey guy many times in the quad during those weeks, when he was on his way to hockey practice. He always found me on the same bench, flipping through my notes before my last class of the day. One day he convinced me to walk with him to the arena. I did. It soon became a ritual. It was always nice to hang out with him..he lifted my spirits.
When the following Friday night came around..I was sick as a dog with a raging cold. Well, that at least explained why my energy was so low.
My friends from my other dorm/home came by to check on me. They were going to the pub. They took along my freshman bunk mate, and soon my two upperclassmen roommates joined them.
I fell asleep…my own snoring, gurgling and runny nose waking me up sporadically. I finally gave in and took some cold medicine to stop it. In a short time I felt a little better and started to doze off again, floating on a cloud of crumpled up tissues.
Somewhere in my stuffy head…I heard the phone ringing. I crawled pathetically to the end of the bed, where one of my new friends put it – just in case I needed to call anyone, to answer it.
“Hello?” I croaked
“Hey you, I hope you don’t mind me calling, but I just saw your friends down at the pub, asked where you were, and they said you were home sick. I was worried”
Yep – it was hockey guy. Why did I smile?
“Yeah..I’ve got a really bad cold. There was no way I was going out tonight.”
“You want some company? It stinks being alone when you’re sick”
I couldn’t believe it, but there was the word, spilling effortlessly from my mouth..
“OK..I’ll be there in about 15 minutes”
I started to doze again after we hung up. What was I doing? Wait, I did nothing, he was a friend..and it was going to remain that way. Suddenly I realized how gross I was and jumped out of bed and into the shower. He’d be here in less than 10 minutes now.
Why did I care??
I started rushing, pulling on a cute pair of jeans and a flattering top..tripping over myself as I hurried. I had to at least blow dry my hair and put a bit of makeup on to cover my red nose and dark circles.
Why did I care??
There was a knock on the door. I was mortified with my mop of wet hair and sick face. I had no choice..I had to answer it.
Why did I care??
I opened the door slowly, practically plastering my wet hair over my swollen nose and greenish, wan skin.
Stop it, Lisa…you shouldn’t care how you look, he’s just a friend.
There he stood..with a container of chicken soup in one hand, a flower in the other, wearing a tight, beige V-neck sweater and perfectly worn jeans, which showcased his well-muscled, hockey player thighs and………..flip-flops.
I found the flip-flops..coupled with his sweater and jeans, incredibly endearing. His upper body was also tight and muscled – but not in any kind of steroidal ‘Schwarzenegger’ way. This guy was an athlete..a well- chiseled athlete..a manly man in every sense of the word.
Don’t get me wrong, Dreamboat had a great body, but when one is an athlete who practices and works out every day, there’s not an inch that can be pinched. I could sense a 6-pack beneath his sweater. Dreamboat had a slight 6-pack, but two beers were missing. A 4-pack, I guess.
I looked up into his chocolate brown eyes, sweet, handsome face, and short, thick, dark curly hair. He had shaved, and smelled great too.
He immediately commented on my wet hair and scolded me gently, asking where he could find a towel. When I showed him..he draped it over my head and started ruffling it through my hair…drying it as best as he could..while I sat on a kitchen chair.
“You have a bad cold, Lisa, this is going to make it worse..you didn’t have to shower for me, silly”
I know..why did I?
I just blew my nose and didn’t respond.
This was not good, I was feeling something. Nothing even remotely close to what I felt with Dreamboat – no jelly legs, no intense butterflies..but it was something.
Part 15 coming soon.
Tags: #BreaingBread, Arugula, Bacon, Bread Baking Society, Cheddar Cheese, Cheese, eggs, focaccia, Roasted Peppers, Yeast
There’s a new bread challenge in town. It’s called the Bread Baking Society (Twitter handle @Breaking_Bread – hashtag #BreakingBread), - founded by Lora from Cake Duchess, Marnely from Cooking with Books and Shulie from Food Wanderings. This month the bread they asked everyone to bake is focaccia, and of course, I wanted to take part. Thankfully I got it in on the last day, last-minute of the month. Once again, there was humidity, but not as bad as last week. Then again, no braiding or shaping of focaccia – just dimpling (awww) – so humidity foiled. Ha!
Of course, there was free creative reign, so the variety of focaccias linked up, sweet and savory, is pretty amazing, from sweet potato to southern charm.
I made a Focaccia McMuffin. I call it that because it’s bacon, egg and cheddar. What makes it kind of cool is, the eggs are in focaccia wells. I scrunched up 6 large pieces of tin foil into 3-inch balls, coated each one generously with olive oil, then stuck them into the cheese and bacon filled dough before rising. When fully risen, I pressed them down again, and baked the focaccai for 20 or so minutes, then removed the tin foil balls – giving me perfect wells to crack 6 eggs into, which I did. I put the focaccia back in the oven for 8 to 10 more minutes, and voila, six perfectly cooked eggs, in six bacon – cheese bread squares (when cut), per person.
Oh, I had to make it pretty, so before baking the focaccia, I topped it with some roasted red peppers, arugula, more bacon – and a few drizzles of olive oil. The eggs were treated to a sprinkling of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped chives, once cooked in the bread. Now seriously, who would not want this for breakfast (or anytime of the day) ?
Finally, I used Nick Malgieri’s focaccia dough in this recipe, which Lora also used. BUT, due to the humidity, I had to add an extra cup of flour. I also took down the salt because of the bacon. I’m sure Nick wouldn’t mind..he’s a pretty awesome pastry chef and guy. He left a comment on THIS post back in 2010…thanks to Meaghan from The Decorated Cookie, alerting him to the post. I was pretty thrilled – I’m such a fan girl when it comes to my favorite chefs.
By the way – please excuse the poor photos. Ego Lights never do well with yellow or white. Yellow (cheese and eggs) in this case, not to mention I really rushed it – didn’t take the time it deserved.
Bacon, Cheddar and ‘Eggs in Wells’ Focaccia
Basic focaccia recipe adapted from How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri, with my revisions
Copyright (c) Nick Malgieri 1995, All Rights Reserved
6 individual servings
1 1/3 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I ended up using 1 more cup due to humidity)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
6 to 8 oz cheddar cheese, cubed
10 slices cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese for the egg wells (a teaspoon per well)
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and sliced (optional, or add your favorite vegetable(s)*
arugula leaves (optional, or use your favorite greens)*
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium or large eggs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
*If you don’t want to add greens or veggies of any sort, top with extra bacon and cheese. Herbs would be nice too.
101/2 x 151/2-inch jelly roll and parchment paper
1. In a small bowl,water sprinkle the yeast over the water. Add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and stir.
2. In large bowl, combine the flour and 3 teaspoons of salt; whisk together or mix together on low speed in your mixer.
3. Stir the yeast, water and olive oil into the flour and salt until you have a dry dough. Slowly add the 1 1/3 cup of water while mixing, until you have a soft, but slightly raggedy dough. You may or may not use all the water.
4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
5. When dough has doubled, fold it onto itself, then flatten it on a floured board. Scatter the cheddar cheese cubes and pieces of bacon all over the flattened dough. Fold it over a few times, adding flour as needed. Use a bench scraper because you will run into stickiness. Keep folding and kneading until the bacon and cheese is disseminated throughout the dough evenly. If bacon and/or cheese pops out during kneading, just shove it back in. Let rest, covered for 5 to 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
6. While the dough is resting, oil the jelly roll pan, then cut a piece of parchment to fit. The oil will keep the parchment paper down. Flatten the ball of dough onto the parchment lined pan and spread it as best you can until it almost reaches all four corners. If it resists, let it rest a few minutes, then start pushing and spreading again. Tuck in any cheese or bacon that pops out.
7. Make 6 tin foil balls..about 3 to 4-inches each, and coat each one with olive or any oil, generously (I used spray olive oil) Press each tin foil ball into dough, deep..two on each row, equally apart.
8. Cover pan with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
9. Prehaet oven to 425 degrees F. Once risen, press the foil balls down again (they rise with the dough), then dimple focaccia and drizzle with olive oil. Top with bacon, pepper strips, and arugula.
10. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then remove pan from oven..keeping oven at 425F, and pull out foil balls. Sprinkle a little shredded cheddar cheese in each well. Crack each egg, one at a time, into a ramekin or small bowl, then slowly and carefully pour each egg into a well, until all six are filled.
11. Place pan back in the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still jiggly, like a sunny side up egg.
12. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle all over with remaining shredded cheddar cheese (the heat will melt it), and salt and pepper each egg. Add chopped chives on top of them too, if desired. Serve immediately, cutting the focaccia into 6 squares, each containing an egg. Gently reheat leftovers, as not to overcook the egg.
Now to Part 12 of Bad Boy First Love. If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, and Part 11 is HERE.
Once again, he read my mind.
“Wanna get going, honey?”
Ahhh..he was good. I was called sweetheart so many times that night, he had to mix it up with honey.
Honey, sweetheart, baby…it didn’t matter. He could call me dingbat, and I’d be putty in his hands.
After a half hour of goodbyes, we were finally alone. My head was still filled with the cacophony of ‘youse guys’, ‘dose guys, ‘deez guys’, ‘dem guys’. One guy even called a toilet a ‘terlet’. Sounded more like a bird than a porcelain waste station.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked these people, they were real. No airs, no BS – I was just a little overwhelmed and intimidated that first night. Within a week, I was as comfy as a kitten in a quilted basket – talking almost as fast as they did. Unfortunately, the girl I connected with, the bride-to-be, broke off the engagement and relationship, so I never saw her again, and Coco was a hurting puppy for a long, long time. He fell hard for one of my friends later on, but unfortunately, she just adored him as a friend. which I’ll get to in another part.
Also, through his friends, his ‘bad boy’ was confirmed. The stories they told me were scary, but again..thrilling to me, because that ‘bad boy’ thing was my weakness. The knife to his leg was nothing compared to the other stories they weaved. I could take up 8 pages telling all of you. He’d almost been arrested a few times, once for almost killing a guy who was attacking his cousin so violently, his cousin ended up in the hospital for weeks, with all kinds of injuries.
Truth be told, he didn’t like to fight..it’s not like he got his jollies kicking ass – he was just very protective of friends and loved ones. and if someone or someone(s) were bullying or attacking them, as one of his friends would say, ‘fuhgeddaboutit’.
The ironic (although his friends thought it was funny) part of the story was the that the perpetrator ended up in the same hospital, across the hall, and soon they were talking and buddies.
That being said, my relationship with Dreamboat was better than ever – it was almost gross in its saccharine salacity. We saw each other at least once every weekend, because I had to hang out with my friends too (You know..the old ‘friends come before guys’ teenage rule/mantra), but we’d also sneak in weeknights (school nights for me – my curfew was 11pm.. and work next day for him), as in, I’d sneak him into my bedroom once my parents were fast asleep, or I’d sneak out after he dropped me off by 11, just to spend more time with him. When we weren’t together, we were on the phone for hours, even though he wasn’t a phone person.
I showed him where I used to stack my pillows against the window, put on his favorite radio station, and cry myself to sleep missing him. He laid down on the pillows next to me, the cool night air caressing us as he wrapped me up tight in his arms. Like clockwork, Stairway to Heaven came on – our first kiss song. It was almost all too surreal – he was lying next to me in my year long ‘mourning’ space for him. Now it was a space of love, joy and content, especially when I could smell him on my pillows after he left.
He finally told me he loved me on a chilly autumn evening in early October as we kissed in the Beetle, parked on the side of a dead-end street overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Just as he said the words, “I love you, Lisa” my diamond stud earring caught on the shoulder of my sweater when I wrapped my arms around him - ready to make this moment as perfect and disgustingly romantic as possible - and popped out, hitting the floor of the Beetle somewhere. They were a gift from my grandmother – they were very expensive – I loved them..I couldn’t lose one of them.
I was bent over in seconds, blindly running my hands all over the floor of passenger seat, hoping to feel the sharpness of the stud against the flattened, coarse carpet.
I’d been waiting desperately for the ‘I love you’ moment, and when it finally came, I was scouring the floor of a Volkswagon Beetle – now scraping my fingers across the rug, bemoaning the possible loss of an earring.
Like I always say, it figures, This is my life to this day. Welcome to it.
He opened the door for light as we searched diligently. I sat up quickly to really dig between the seats – forgetting about the dashboard.
I slammed my head against it hard. I saw red spots for a moment, and then my eyes started to tear because it hurt like a bitch. Dreamboat started examining the area.
Dr. Dreamboat is in the house again!
I started to panic.. ”Is it bleeding? Is there a gash? Does it look like I need stitches??”
I couldn’t believe how perfect the first ‘I love you’ moment was turning out!
Dreamboat smiled “No, sweetheart, it’s just a bump..you’ll be fine”
I loved him so much. Oh, wait, I could tell him that now.
“I’m not dunking my head in the Hudson River and I love you too”
There, I said it. We had a good laugh at my Hudson River barb, then romance and mushy talk followed.
I completely forgot about my earring.
As he rubbed my head, he told me he had known he loved me for a while, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t rushed – such serious words. That made me love him even more, so I said it again, and again, and again..I think I must have said it like 10 more times that night, just to hear him say it back.
I was and am such a sap.
He found my diamond stud a few days later, and presented it to me in a box with a beautiful, thin gold chain with one simple, matching diamond stud attached to it. I’m not a bling girl, I like delicate, understated jewelry, so it was perfect. I still occasionally wear it to this day.
My senior year was amazing, mostly because of him. I was so happy, you could stick a needle in my eye and I’d tell you not to worry about it. The year before – my miserable junior year, I never would have thought it would turn out this way. My glass is half-empty most of the time.
There was only one problem…the more I snuck out during the week, staying out or ‘in’ super late..on school nights, the more exhausted I was, and I couldn’t get up for school no matter how loud my mother screamed or how hard she tugged at my blanket. I was late to school about twice a week.
My mother thought I was doing drugs, and wanna know how I found that out?
I opened my eyes one morning to see my freakin’ guidance counselor sitting on a chair in the middle of my bedroom, surrounded by dirty clothes I’d thrown on the floor the night before, and a half-eaten plate of crusty tuna salad teetering precariously on the edge of a table next to her. I almost wanted it to fall on her lap.
I rubbed my eyes several times, I MUST be dreaming. This was crazy! Teachers and any ‘school employees’ weren’t supposed ever see your bedroom, much less be in it!
I was going to kill my mother.
To make matters worse….I’d fallen asleep in my bra and panties – too tired to take off the bra and put on a T-shirt. I pulled my blanket up to my chin. She didn’t even leave to let me put some clothes on. I know…woman to woman, but when you’re in High School, teachers and guidance counselors aren’t human beings – they’re just teachers and guidance counselors. For instance, if you saw one out shopping, or picking up a pizza, living their life outside of school, it’s almost like spotting an alien shopping or picking up a pizza. Just plain weird.
Once I convinced her I wasn’t on drugs, could barely drink alcohol without puking, and there was no one or no situation at school that was upsetting me, she started veering into other areas. Pregnant? Sick? Oh, come on now…I finally stopped her..
I‘m up all night doing the Rumba with my boyfriend, OK?
But I didn’t say that.
“I have a boyfriend and we stay on the phone for hours late at night, plus I talk to my friends too”
Ha! Like I was going to tell her I was sneaking back out after he dropped me off at 11pm, or sneaking him in, after my parents were asleep – usually within minutes once they knew I was home.
She accepted that explanation..her faintly lined face softening, human for a brief moment. She let out a sigh – “Young love, I remember it well – BUT, you need to get up on time for school. so cut the phone calls short, ok?”
I agreed, waited until she left, then tore into my mother for embarrassing the hell out of me.
My father later solved this problem by taking my phone out of my room at 11 pm each night. I’d gotten away with it, and continued to sneak with him, but I made sure I got up on time every day…standing under a blasting, ice cold shower for a few seconds to shock myself wide awake. Worked like a charm, but those few seconds were hell.
So, except fot that minor fork, well, knife rather, in the road, my senior year was happy and breezy.
One day in January, the Beetle met it’s maker, it just died and was beyond repair. Hey, he got almost three years out of a junkyard mess he restored into working condition, not too shabby, but I still think she died of a broken heart. I stole her man.
Now that I had my drivers license and full use of my parent’s cars, I would drive to him, then let him take over the driving because I liked it that way. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have, but like I said in the previous part, teenagers in love don’t usually think rationally or weigh the possible consequences of their actions.
When prom time was approaching, I didn’t bring it up because there was no way I thought he’d want to spend the evening with a bunch of High School kids. I was too nervous to ask him to take me, I was either going to skip it, or maybe go with a guy friend – but I couldn’t even fathom that… Dreamboat was the only man I wanted to go to prom with.
Remember that scene in Pretty In Pink where Annie Potts talks about the girl who missed her prom – going through life feeling like something was missing – every.single.day..then realizing it was all because she didn’t go to prom? That scene haunted me when I thought of not going.
Lo and behold, he brought it up one Saturday night on our way to see a movie.
“Hey, isn’t your prom coming up?”
I started twirling a strand of my hair – a nervous habit, “Yeah…but I don’t think I’m going to go..it’s stupid anyway”
He kept driving..awkward silence..not once taking his eyes off the road. He finally spoke..
“Why skip it? I’ll take you”
My heart did a little flip..”Really? You wouldn’t mind hanging out with a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds?”
He smiled “I’m hanging out with a 17 year old now”
I laughed….he had a good point.
So, he took me to my prom. He looked just as hot in a tux as I imagined he would, when I conjured up images of of our future wedding.
I was a little worried he might experience some snootiness from some of my insanely wealthy classmates, but the opposite happened. The guys were drawn to him..maybe because he was older and tough, and the girls couldn’t stop telling me how gorgeous he was.
I couldn’t help thinking that these girls would love a piece of him, but would never marry him. He wouldn’t be able to give them the lifestyle they were used to and had no plans of giving up. They’d end up marrying wealthy men with similar cultural/religions backgrounds. or investment bankers with roman numerals following their name.
Soon summer was upon us and I graduated – FOR REAL this time. It was a bittersweet time in so many ways, but what hurt the most was that I had so little time left with him. I was leaving for college in Florida in the Fall. I had applied early, my junior year, and only applied to one school in the Northeast because I wanted to attend a college in a warm weather state, near a beach. All the schools I applied to, outside of Boston, were in So-Cal and Florida. Not the best reason to choose a college, huh? I was thinking more sun and fun than academics.
My priorities were about as straight as Lombard Street.
Then, I chickened out, I couldn’t be that far away from him, so I changed schools at the last minute. Boston was still a 4 hour drive, but only a 45 minute to 1 hour flight before 9/11 and all the security. It actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, because I think Boston is one of the best cities to attend college in, but I’ll get to that later.
He was going to work on the pier again that summer, but wasn’t going down until mid-July, so we could spend lots of time together before I went to our place in Florida with my friends, mother, sister and her friends, for 2 weeks. Me, and two of the three friends from the summer before, rented a bigger, better apartment in the same apartment complex we stayed at the previous summer, for the last three weeks of August, so although I wouldn’t see him for 2 weeks, it worked out perfectly, or so I thought….
I need to stop here because several people have told me I’m shortening the memories to finish my story, stuffing an elephant into a sausage casing, so to speak, diluting it – the Cliff Notes of my first love.
I deleted the second half of this post, the end of the story, because it was a bunch of quick paragraphs finishing everything up, no substance – no meat. By forcing it – I’m cheating myself and cheating anyone who’s enjoying it..so, there is going to be a Part 13 – BUT, I can absolutely guarantee 100%, Part 14 is the definite end.
Tags: Chicken Breasts, Chicken Fingers, Chile Garlic Sauce, Cilantro, coconut, cooking, Dessicated Coconut, garlic, Ginger, Greek Yogurt, Lime, Panko, Soy Sauce
For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog, Edesia’s Notebook (love the name) authored and photographed by Lesa. For the first time since I joined, I didn’t have the urge to grab some gorgeous dessert, which Lesa has plenty of, and play with it. Instead, the same thought kept going through my head.
You don’t often see posts where I just make dinner, nothing fancy, nothing outrageous, nothing you would only make for a special occasion. It’s not that I don’t have a decent amount of simple recipes, but I just felt the need to cook dinner and blog it. I chose her Crunchy Lemon Chicken.
Of course, I ended up futzing with it, because I truly believe it’s nearly impossible for me not to futz with recipes. I cut each breast into strips, used limes instead of lemons, added soy sauce and garlic to the marinade, threw in dessicated coconut with the panko bread crumbs and whole eggs plus coconut water in the breading station, plus a few other minor alterations, like the baking time and temperature.
Otherwise, it’s just dinner, and it was delicious. I think these are the crunchiest, most delicious chicken fingers I’ve ever had. Kids would go nuts over these. Just my completely unbiased opinion.
I also made a dip to go with them – what I call a garbage dip, where you rummage through your fridge and cabinets and just throw something together. It was interesting and tasty, (Looks kind of gross in the photos..like Thousand Island dressing that sat out too long, doesn’t it?), but the chicken fingers had so much flavor, it really wasn’t needed.
Now to Bad Boy First Love Part 9. If you’re reading this for the first time, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, and Part 8 is HERE.
Between the kissing, hugging, talking and staring into each other’s eyes ( I didn’t laugh or look away once, for the first time in my life. His eyes were so blue and clear in the dark, I can still picture it perfectly to this day), for hours, it was absolutely, unequivocally, the best.night.of.my.life.
Soon the sky started to lighten a bit, and I was exhausted. So much raw emotion had been released in less than 24 hours, so many highs and lows.. the wine and beer certainly playing a part too. I couldn’t prevent the constant yawning, no matter how hard I tried – BUT, I wanted this night to last forever. In a way, I wanted to fall asleep in his arms, right there..even if we were awakened to harsh sunlight, screaming kids, the smell of suntan lotion and beach balls landing on us. He held me for a while as I started to enter dream land, then gently kissed me awake, stroking my hair.
“I think we better get you home, sweetheart – you’re starting to crash”
“Huh? No..I’m awake.. just resting my eyes”
The above is my usual line when someone wakes me up, whether in person or by phone. No idea why I always say that, and still do to this day, as if it’s a bad thing to admit I’m falling asleep or that they woke me up from a deep sleep. I’m so weird.
On our drive back to my luxurious penthouse, he suddenly pulled over. I was so busy staring at his beautiful profile that I hadn’t even noticed the scuffle going on between 4 guys, one of them apparently being ganged up on by the other three, in a somewhat dark, out-of-the-way area near the beach. One of the three was holding what looked to be a baseball bat, but he was leaning on it. Maybe they were fighting over a late night to early morning baseball game that just ended? Of course I said that to him, feeling like a total idiot once the words left my lips.
He looked at me calmly, and said, “I’ll be right back”, like he was going to get me a soda or something..not like he was about to play vigilante. I was terrified..I touched his arm..
“No, don’t..please, let’s just go”
He smiled and kissed my cheek, “I’ll be right back”
OK, he meant business.
Nothing rattled this guy. I heard the trunk open and close. I watched in the rearview mirror as he pulled something out of his trunk – it looked like a tire iron. He walked toward this scuffle like it was no big deal – such confidence, no fear at all. Now I was really scared, but in a strange way, it turned me on. West Side Story was about to come to life, minus the singing and dancing, and I was slightly turned on..what the hell was wrong with me?
Oh, I remember, I liked bad boys, and this was most certainly bad boy behavior, but he was a good bad boy, he was going to protect someone. Then the thought of him getting really hurt scared me again. I opened the window and called out to him meekly. He didn’t hear me, but I couldn’t hear me either..my voice was shaking a little, and I think I squeaked.
I watched as he walked up to them and stood in front of the victim, blocking him, looking calm, but so damn tough.
I was excited again.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying outside of my now even sexier guy commanding them to ”‘Keep walking” when the bullies started to back off after trying to get tough with him and apparently not succeeding. Tire iron > baseball bat.
Then they came forward again and I couldn’t take it anymore…he was going to get hurt! I do have to admit I liked how he didn’t back up, not even one inch, when they came toward him.
Just as I was about to open the car door so I could run over and fling myself in front of Dreamboat, he pushed one of them in the chest. I was shocked to see the guy stumble back quite a ways and fall when it seemed like such a light push, with one hand, no less. They took off. Wow, that was too easy. I guess they realized that if he could push that lightly and send the guy back that far and on his ass, one swing of the tire iron could be pretty fierce. Then again, I didn’t hear what was said, so that probably played a part too. It didn’t matter, he was so damn awesome, he wasn’t going to let three guys beat up on one.
He came walking back to the car with the victim. Turns out, after an introduction, the kid, who couldn’t have been more than 16 (well..a little younger than me..shhhh) worked in one of the booths on the pier and he knew him. The kid got into the car and couldn’t stop thanking Dreamboat. I was in awe of how cool, calm and collected Dreamboat remained, as if he simply bought the kid a soda, and there was no need for a thank you.
Apparently, this kid owed a little money to one of the guys, and that guy brought along his three friends and a bat to collect, when this kid couldn’t have weighed more than 120 lbs soaking wet.
“No problem. I don’t care what you owe him, if he can’t collect on his own, he’s weak. Let me know if they ever give you a hard time again, ok?”
The guy was an ‘effin chickensh*t according to Dreamboat..and I couldn’t have agreed more.
We dropped the kid off. Now that we were alone again, I couldn’t keep my hands off of him..I hugged and kissed him as he drove. I was even more crazy about him than before, and frankly, I didn’t think that was possible because I thought I had already reached the apex of love, longing, lust – whatever you want to call it – with him.
When he pulled up to my mini ‘party central’ apartment complex (there were parties still going on and the place was hopping..at 5:30 am), after about a 20 minute goodbye (our goodbyes would become legendary, to us, that is) I reached to pick up a little purse I had brought with me and left on the passenger seat floor.
Cut to 6 months prior..during my sad Junior year of High School. My friend bought me one of those white button pins with an I HEART Dreamboat on it – aka I LOVE plus his real name, when we were at the mall one night. I always kept it in my purse, for no reason other than I did HEART him, and being a little superstitious, felt that maybe it might bring us back together again (like the cup holder!).
I bet you can guess what happened.
I’d forgotten that I had opened the purse before getting out of the car to walk, well, trip over my own feet, to the beach, to grab a few orange tic-tacs. The button came flying out of my open purse and landed right on his lap.
I wanted to die.
He picked it up and looked at it, not saying anything for about a minute. Why, why, why? Now he would think I was some obsessive, stalker child! Why would a supposed 18-year old be carrying something like that around?
Maybe there was a slight chance he was illiterate? I had never wished someone to be illiterate, that desperately, at that moment. I could teach him to read, kissing him every time he read a word correctly!
I braced myself, my face was burning, I wanted to turn back the clock two minutes and do it over again, GENTLY picking up the purse. Maybe I could say it was another Dreamboat! Yeah..I could hear myself now..trying to act all cool..
“Well, during our time apart I just so happened to meet a guy named Dreamboat, what a coincidence, huh? I thought I was never going to see you again, so I thought I loved him, but I didn’t, and I forgot it was still in this purse..I rarely use this purse” *confident flick of my hair*
He interrupted my momentary lapse of reasonable thinking..
“You shouldn’t have one of these unless you mean it”
I DO MEAN IT! I’m madly in love with you!
Instead…I told him the truth, without confessing my love for him.
“I know, D bought it for me, and I kept it in my purse, hoping it would bring me luck and I’d see you again.”
Woah, that was easy, why was I so freaked out about it?
He hugged me tight to him and whispered in my ear..
“I guess it worked then, like the cup holder”
I smiled, a wave of relief washing over me. I decided I’d drop the age bomb the next night.
Part 10 coming soon. I’m sorry I left you all with the same cliffhanger as last time, but I started this post before everything happened, and couldn’t finish it, which would have included that story, due to the current circumstances. I didn’t want to give you all something half-assed. I promise Part 10 soon, and the whole thing will be wrapped up in Part 11.
Crunchy Coconut Lime Chicken Strips or Bites
Adapted from and Inspired by Lesa from Edesia’s Notebook
Yields about 4 servings
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 chicken breasts (About 1 lb) cut into 1-inch wide strips. Cut each strip in half for ‘bites’.
1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2/3 cup dessicated coconut shreds
3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to season flour
2 eggs, beaten with 4 tablespoons of coconut water (you can use coconut milk if you can’t find coconut water)
Oil spray, doesn’t matter what kind
1. In a bowl, stir together lime juice, zest, light olive oil, ginger, light soy sauce, garlic and salt. Add the chicken strips and stir until they’re completely coated with the marinade. You can also pour the marinade with the chicken strips, into a ziplock bag, which is what I did. Marinate for 4 to 5 hours at the most..stirring the strips in the bowl of marinade or squeezing around the bag every hour to an hour and a half to insure even marinating.
2. Line a large baking sheet with foil sprayed lightly with oil. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in one bowl, the beaten eggs and coconut water in a second bowl, and the panko and dessicated coconut in a third bowl. Remove the chicken strips from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
3. Lift up each chicken strip and shake off some of the marinade so it isn’t overly-saturated (I just ran two impeccably clean fingers down each strip, sliding off the extra marinade). Coat each chicken strip in flour, knocking off the excess, then dip and coat well in the egg mixture and then dredge it in the panko - dessicated coconut mixture, pressing it onto each strip. Place each chicken strip on the oiled baking sheet and continue until all chicken has been coated.
4. Lightly spray some oil on the breaded chicken strips, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. IMPORTANT – Do not let them sit on the baking sheet once out of the oven. Transfer them to a rack if not eating within a few minutes, or the bottoms will get soggy.
Spicy Yogurt Dip
1 cup greek yogurt
2 to 3 tablespoons Asian chile-garlic sauce
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix all the ingredients together, then cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend.
If you get a chance, please click on the blue frog below to see all the amazing dishes recreated by Group A of The Secret Recipe Club. Also, click on over to Edesia’s Notebook for some fantastic sweet and savory recipes!