Tags: alfredo, linguine, pasta, peas, Prosciutto, tomato parmesan sauce, Tomato Sauce
Is anybody still out there? I hope so.
I attempted to build a linguine tower with a fork and tongs. Obviously, it didn’t work out too well. With natural light, it would have looked magnificent just dumped on a plate. Without it, you need to get creative.
I’m so sorry for the exceedingly long delay of this story and my absence from blogging in general. I truly, truly feel awful about it, and I’m so happy and relieved to finally get something up. As many of you know (that is, whoever decided to stick around, and again, so, so sorry), I’ve been sick for some time and it’s been extremely difficult to pull off even the most mundane tasks.
Since last June, for about 5 months, I could barely write, much less peel a carrot. I was able to get in a paragraph or two maybe once a month and that was what I called a good month. Around January, I felt a little better so I started writing a little more. Upon first preview, I was startled to see how much I’d written.
I decided to split it into two parts because if I posted it all at once, it would literally swallow up my tiny blog. Normally, it would be about three or four parts, but I can’t do that to you all after such a long wait. Since it’s completely finished, once this post marinates a bit, I’ll put the last part up. I’d say one week, give or take a few days.
Of course I couldn’t put this post up without a recipe, since it is a food blog. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t play and had to choose something basic and simple (with a little help), but basic and simple doesn’t make it any less amazing. In fact, it usually makes it more amazing and difficult because every single facet must be spot on and every ingredient top notch since there are no extraneous components and preparations to hide behind.
Furthermore, this recipe sort of ties into the story since it’s a derivative of an alfredo sauce I make via cutting down the cream and adding tomatoes. But, I shouldn’t refer to my favorite alfredo sauce as alfredo because true alfredo does not contain even a speck of cream. To digress somewhat, authentic alfredo is a remarkably creamy amalgam of just butter, parmesan cheese and pasta water, – and, when done right, it’s actually better than alfredo made with cream. I know, shocking, but it makes up for it with twice the butter!
I would have much rather posted one of the amazing cakes, pastries or breads that have been blistering my brain for 8 months running, but due to my current circumstances, those ideas can’t be fully executed yet. I miss playing with batters and dough, so much so, it literally breaks my heart to tears. Not being able to cook or bake feels like someone brutally ripped a pacifier from my mouth and won’t give it back. SO, hopefully sooner than later.
On another note, I forgot how awful it is not having enough natural light to take photos in. Heavy duty bummer moment when I uploaded these photos, especially after months of pinning other blogger’s gorgeous, naturally lit photos. Why did I think it would be any different this time? I damn you for making my pasta look like intestines, Ego Lights! OK, well, I’m mostly to blame because I let it sit too long before snapping away.
Now that I’ve waxed kvetchic, I want to share with you one of my favorite and most requested pasta dishes. If you don’t like prosciutto and/or peas, of course you can eliminate them. This sauce is perfection on its own.
Creamy Tomato Parmesan Linguine with Peas and Prosciutto (Tomato Alfredo)
4 – 6 servings
1 pound linguine (any other pasta is fine and fresh is ideal since sauces cling better to fresh pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with liquid
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas*
1/4 lb sliced prosciutto (taste it before buying, you don’t want it too salty)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese..
red hot pepper flakes (optional)
chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
* I couldn’t find any fresh peas, so I had to use frozen. However, I highly recommend fresh since the frozen just don’t compare in flavor, unless I just got a really bad box of frozen peas.
1. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water plus a generous pinch plus of kosher salt to a boil. Taste the water, it should be salty like the ocean.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, pour the can of tomatoes with juice into the work bowl of a food processor. DO NOT turn on the processor at full speed because you will end up with pink foam. Just pulse until you have a smooth puree.
3. Over medium heat, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep pan or skillet. Add the chopped garlic and chopped shallot to the oil. Saute until soft and translucent, then slowly pour in the pureed tomatoes and their juice. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, seasoning it with salt and pepper to taste as it simmers (go easy on the salt because of the cheese that will be added). If you’re using the red hot pepper flakes, add them now. Simmer until it reduces a bit about 10 to 15 minutes tops.
4. While the tomato sauce simmers, add the linguine to the boiling pot of water and cook until al dente. In the mean time, once the sauce has simmered for 10-15 minutes, stir the 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the peas and let them cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their size (fresh peas are bigger). Slowly pour the cream into the sauce, swirling the pan and stirring, then add the sliced prosciutto, stirring to distribute it evenly.
5. Immediately drain the linguine, pouring some of the pasta water into a cup in case you need to thin the sauce once the cheese is added. If your pan or skillet is big enough, dump all the linguine right into the sauce and toss, adding all the parmigiano-reggiano cheese at once and tossing over the heat until it coats the linguine. If your skillet or pan isn’t big enough, dump the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce and cheese on top of it, tossing until all the pasta is coated.
If the sauce is too thick once tossed with the linguine, thin it out with some of the reserved pasta water.
6. Top with the chopped parsley (if using), some extra fresh ground pepper, and serve immediately, passing extra Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Now, and finally, part 22. This one was so incredibly hard to put up. In fact, it took me a week to gather the courage to hit publish, once it was ready to go . I could go on about the reasons why, but I’ll save that for another day.
If you’re tuning in for the first time, here are the previous parts to this story. 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, Part 16 is HERE , Part 17 is HERE and Part 18 is HERE, and Part 19 is HERE., Part 20 is HERE, Part 21 is HERE.
Dreamboat turned around slowly to face the cement wall and put his hands against it, the same wall he had been kissing me against just minutes ago. It was amazing how quickly a romantic night could turn into a night behind bars. While I watched the cop pat him down, I couldn’t help worrying that he might have a joint in his pocket or wallet. My stomach tied a new knot every time the cop’s hand patted then disappeared into a pocket. Four on his jeans, three on his jacket. Seven knots total. Then I remembered he sometimes slipped one in a sock. Nine knots. Bile started to rise up my esophagus as the cop snaked his fingers beneath each hem, literally patting down his socks.
Obviously Dreamboat’s three second slice of attitude didn’t sit well with this cop, and he was going to make him pay, even it meant patting down his socks.
The cop stood up and stepped back..seemingly satisfied. Okay, I thought, nothing on his body, so far so good. I felt the bile that was slowly creeping up my throat temporarily pause, then watched helplessly as Dreamboat was cuffed, regardless, so the cop could search his car. He would definitely find something in his car! I thought in a wild panic. The bile started creeping again, looming dangerously near my lower wisdoms.
I couldn’t take it anymore – I was scared out of my flippin’ mind, so with a big, fat side of tears, I started to beg the cop not to arrest him;
“Please don’t arrest him, officer, he’s in a bad mood, he didn’t mean to respond to you in that tone, I swear! He’s a really good guy..a law abiding citizen!” When he’s not occasionally sucking on a joint, that is.
Yes, I really said that, minus the marijuana jab.
The officer ignored me, and Dreamboat shot me an icy look. Macho BS. No guy wants his girl begging a cop not to arrest him.
Thankfully, there were no illegal substances in his car, which the cop searched for what seemed like an hour. He was looking for anything to arrest him. I watched him rifle through some of his CD’s. I could hear it now;
“You’re under arrest for the possession of loud, obnoxious music by a band that hasn’t been together in a million years.”
Instead, he looked over at Dreamboat, holding up a CD, and said “This is my favorite.”
I unleashed a huge sigh of relief as he walked over to Dreamboat and unlocked the cuffs.
“This is now private property, you can’t hang out here anymore” He muttered gruffly while turning the key. The loud click of the handcuffs opening soothed me like no binky or blankie had before.
Geez, he couldn’t have said that in the first place? Dreamboat looked pissed as hell. His jaw was clenched, which was a big time warning sign that he could blow a gasket at any moment. To avoid another confrontation, which would most certainly result in his arrest, I intervened with what I thought would loosen his jaw and soften his steely glare;
“I’m ready to start looking for a place, baby…if you still want to.”
I wasn’t being entirely truthful, but at that moment I would have done/said anything to calm him down. He turned to look at me, a small smile cracking at the corners of his lips. I could almost see the anger slowly seeping from him, like a drag from a cigarette exhaled ..curls of smoke unraveling, then slowly evaporating into the night air.
“You sure?” he asked. ”Yes, I’m sure.” I answered, feeling a just tiny bit queasy as I watched the cop drive away slowly.
Yeah, I know..an anticlimactic end to that situation after months and months of waiting, but believe you, me…it was a relief of epic proportions.
The following Saturday morning, we went to see some funny car races down the shore with his brother, P, and a few of P’s friends. I’d never been to one before but saw the commercials on TV. Are they supposed to look or be funny? They just looked like pimped out race cars to me. Regardless, I was always up for new experiences.
We drove in Dreamboat’s car, which was a two-seater, while P went with his friends in a beat up SUV. By the end of the races, rife with Italian Jersey guys morphing into tobacco chewing, beer swilling, NASCAR fanatics with faux southern accents and aphorisms (“Doggoneit, you go now, boy!”), every single one of P’s friends was drunk, including the driver.
P begged Dreamboat for a ride, which would render his lap my new seat. Dreamboat would have none of that. Instead, he took the keys from the driver, told them all to wait there and that we would be back with a neighbor’s pickup. I loved him for that, until P said…
“Sorry we’re gettin’ in the way of youse guys lookin’ for a house.” …while nervously kicking some dirt in front of him. Apparently, the parent-child dynamic between the brothers was still in full effect years later.
Huh? I looked at Dreamboat, confused. He said nothing until we were on the road.
“I wanted to surprise you with a few houses I thought we could look at.” He said as he shifted into 5th gear, not once taking his eyes off the road.
So, we were going to live down the shore? The decision had already been made? WOAH, we were really looking at places now..and the rest of the weekend? And, what was this stuff about a house?
Then I remembered that night on the beach, the summer before my junior year of college when he asked if we could live down the shore because it was his dream. I remember it felt safe to say yes (I was a little tipsy, if you recall) because I had two more years of school and it seemed so far off. For all I knew, I would be ready by then.
Apparently, I wasn’t.
Now the moment was here, reality smacking me in the face with houses. But, I did tell him I was ready to start looking, even though it was mainly to chill him out. Wow, there was no backing out now. I loved him madly, but again, wasn’t quite sure I was ready to shack up with the intent of marriage and babies. I had dreams to fulfill, goals to chase, many more girls night outs (and Tower Records runs). Add to that, cobalt blue and lime green face masks, PMS zit popping, and late night repeats of classic TV sitcoms to fall asleep to while my half-eaten pint of Ben and Jerry’s melted in its carton on the dresser.
Plus, how in the world was I going to explain my random need for feetie pajamas in the winter? Even worse, how was I going to dance to bubblegum pop music in them?
After he borrowed a shore neighbor’s pick-up and unloaded the guys at their destinations, it was time for the inevitable. It was getting late, so he could only convince one landlord/owner to show us one of three places he’d looked up in the classifieds.
We pulled up to a small, white shack, the type of house a bunch of 18 year old to early 20 somethings would rent for the summer. I looked at Dreamboat, gauging his expression. It was blank. He had a knack for hiding his true feelings with a blank stare.
I was still baffled as to why he never bothered telling me that he wanted to go straight for a house.
“I thought we were looking at apartments?” I asked nonchalantly, although what I was feeling was miles from nonchalant. Somehow, an apartment seemed less foreboding, less of an immediate life commitment than a house – an actual house! I was only 22! Each surprise was getting harder and harder to digest. I swallowed hard, trying to dissolve the lump in my throat and metabolize the blocks of fear in my belly, blocks that were stacking up quickly.
He squeezed my hand..”Why go for an apartment when we can have a little house of our own..you know, a starter house? The price is really good, much cheaper than back in North Jersey.” He said, his voice oozing with first buyer pride.
One of the blocks shot up my gullet. I unconsciously rubbed my chest and throat.
North Jersey…we hadn’t even looked in North Jersey, where I’d still be near my friends and family, maybe living in one of the pretty high-rises along the Hudson, or even a walk-up nearby, alongside other couples not ready to take the plunge and pop out rugrats like Pez candies. I think.
My scary thoughts were interrupted by the oncoming headlights of a car. It was the owner/landlord.
The landlord was a woman in a housecoat, my nightmare couture. She couldn’t have been more than late 20′s to early 30′s, but looked 40. She was wearing raggedy flip-flops and her housecoat was dabbed with faded pink peonies, although some of them may have been spaghetti sauce stains that didn’t come out in the wash. Her over-bleached hair was striped with dark brunette roots where it parted, almost the same shade as the dark circles under eyes which is what aged her most, probably from five kids hanging at her feet most of the day. Yep, five kids! “Sorry I’m late, I had to wait for my neighbor to come watch my five kids.” She sort of mumbled as she led us to the door.
Young and stuck, I assumed. I couldn’t help wondering if her husband was a ‘Dreamboat’ whom she fell head over heels for and made a life-changing decision to hold on to. Maybe she was regretting it at times, possibly demonstrated by the weariness in her voice as she took us on a tour of this small shack.
When she opened the door, the smell of dampness and must hit immediately, sea air contained in a small space for too long. I could see many a party had been had by the marks on the walls..parties by carefree kids, like I once was – no pressure, only here to enjoy the shore for a few weeks, not live permanently.
“Here’s the living room, and you’ve got two bedrooms and one bathroom in the back. The kitchen is small, but it’s workable”, she said quickly, dying to get this over with.
I looked at the kitchen and then Dreamboat. He was hoping for some kind of approval, anything. I felt horrible because thus far into the tour, I couldn’t give it to him. He started talking about what we could do to make it nice, sounding like the incarnation of Bob Vila - adding on, gutting, plastering, painting and then selling it for two or three times the price when we could afford something bigger and better a few years down the road.
I surveyed the surroundings, looking for something to change my mind. Nope, it wasn’t going to happen, especially when I saw a hole in the floor of the second bedroom – well, let me rephrase that, the big closet with a ratty sofa bed.
I unconsciously wrinkled my nose as I shook my head no. Damn, that was a spoiled brat move. I was ashamed of myself. This didn’t deter him one bit;
“That’s alright, I had a feeling you might not like this one, but it was worth a look, right?” He said as he hugged me to him with one strong arm, kissing my forehead. I relaxed for a moment. Then it hit me, there was probably more of these types of shacks coming the next day.
When the tour de shack was over, we were famished. What felt like the longest day ever was finally over. He wanted to stop at this cheesesteak stand on the boulevard in Seaside, a place that held fond memories, memories of our early days together on his day off. He would order a giant, drippy cheesesteak sub loaded with perfectly grilled, tender slices of steak. caramelized peppers and onions, and gobs of gooey cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Since there were only a few stools, he would sit on a stool (or vice versa) and I would stand between his legs (or vice versa), sharing this dream of a sub, seeing who could take a bigger bite, wiping each other’s mouths sloppily and laughing our asses off . I kind of wished I could transport us back to that time, just so I could get back some more time before the big move in decision.
I closed my eyes and tried to make it happen. No dice. I pondered astral projection, but only for a second. Then I realized I’d have to do college and our brief, albeit super painful, breakup, all over again. Download aborted.
I snapped back into the present. Food. Hungry. At first I was more than game to revisit the old cheesesteak place, but then I had an idea. I’d been cooking and baking a ton at home and wanted to put together a nice meal for us back at his shore house. We knew P wouldn’t be there because he had plans to go to Atlantic City with a local girl he was seeing.
We headed to the market where I gathered the ingredients for a romantic indoor picnic. A variety of cheeses and fruit. some fresh fettuccine (I had not even attempted homemade pasta yet) and, at his request, the ingredients for my ‘famous’ alfredo sauce with fresh peas, crab meat and prosciutto, which I’d conquered a few months before after loving it at a restaurant back in North Jersey. His eyes widened in shock and he let out a low whistle when I chose the really pricey jumbo lump blue crab meat plucked fresh from Barnegat Bay earlier that day.
I was well on my way to culinary freakdom..
Some diet coke and a bottle of cheap white for me and beer for him, and we were good to go.
After cooking, I set the scene for our romantic picnic, pushing furniture out of the way so I could spread a huge blanket over the center of the wood floor, lighting candles at a safe distance around it and on some of the end tables. My inner Suzy Homemaker was dialed up to 10, and he loved it, most likely because he was picturing me doing it in our own house, for him and our 5 kids.
We dug in ravenously, barely speaking, just enjoying the ambiance and food, waiting until the first sign of fullness before uttering a word other than ‘Mmm, good’. While I was entrenched in twirling a few stubborn strands of fettuccine around my fork, he spoke;
“The few places left to see aren’t much different than the one we just saw..you know, fixer uppers, starter houses. If you want to start off with an apartment back in North Jersey, I get it…it’s okay.” He said softly, as he ripped off a hunk of bread and used it to wipe the sauce off his empty plate.
I was so elated by his change of heart, I bailed on the fettuccine fork and hugged him, almost knocking him backwards. Then I saw it, just as the hug broke, a flash of disappointment in his eyes. It was so quick, I would have missed it had I not been watching his beautiful baby blues for a reaction. Then he smiled and it seemed so genuine, that for a brief second I thought I might have imagined it. But, deep down I knew that that brief, cloudy moment in his eyes was probably more genuine than his million dollar smile. I wiped it from my psyche fast, I wanted to pretend it never happened.
Then he cracked a joke about how living in a litter box would be a step up from the house we looked at.
The minute he said that, I felt awful. I hoped he didn’t think my reluctance was due to the place being a complete dump because that didn’t matter to me, and I told him so. It could have been an opulent, 20 room mansion with a theater, tennis court and pool, and I still would have been spooked. It was too quick, too much at this moment in my life.
“As long as we can move forward, I don’t care where it is.” He said cheerfully.
Big time brownie points for blue eyes. I decided I would make him brownies the next day, a huge pan of brownies, enough brownies to wipe away the guilt I was feeling.
For the rest of evening, I tried hard to erase that momentary shadow in his eyes, still trying to convince myself that his latter reaction was the real one. But, it remained there like sticky sludge and no matter how hard I scrubbed, it wasn’t budging. I just hoped my love for him was enough to eventually melt it off. Then again, why couldn’t my love be enough to make an immediate life commitment to him?
To this day, fettuccine reminds me of that 1 second of sad eyes. Oh, look at that amazing plated fettuccine photo on pinterest! Sad eyes.
Later that night, well, morning, around 2 am, I woke up dying of thirst, completely parched. I figured I’d OD’d on all that cheese we bought. As I poured and took my first sip of water, I heard a car drive by slowly, the rumble loud and heavy on his ‘pin drop’ silent street. I thought nothing of it and continued to drink my water while leafing through a makeup catalog addressed to his mother. A few minutes later, the car rumbled by again, this time stopping briefly, then continuing on. Maybe someone is lost, I thought, still thinking nothing of it. By the third time, I grabbed a cigarette and went outside for a smoke, and maybe an investigation.
Yeah, I forgot to mention that I smoked on and off back then. Disgusting habit and he hated it, so I mostly refrained when with him.
I sat down on one of the front steps and lit up, waving my hand to bat away the curls of smoke with each drag, watching and waiting for this mysterious car to take another lap. Just as I stood up and stubbed out the cigarette in a patch of soil at the bottom of the steps, I heard the rumble, then two beams of approaching headlights illuminated the street from about about a block away. The slow rumbling became louder as it got closer. I jumped up, opened the screen door, keeping my finger on the outside light switch. I was going to blast it so I could get a good look at who it was.
Sure enough, the car slowed down when it hit Dreamboat’s shore house, followed by a flash of beady, bright red lights as whomever it was tapped the breaks to slow down even more. I quickly turned on the light in my ‘GOTCHA!’ mode and caught a fleeting glimpse of long, light brown hair beneath a baseball cap. That was it. She was too quick, a seasoned stalker. She hit the gas and peeled out with a high-pitched screech, leaving a stream of exhaust in her wake.
I ran up to the bedroom and dove belly first onto the bed, percolated and perky from my detective work. Dreamboat opened one eye, then rolled over to go back to sleep. I nudged him in the ribs a few times. He had to know immediately!
“Hey, wake up, some chick is stalking you!” I whispered excitedly as I continued to nudge him.
He rolled back over slowly, groaning a bit, then rubbed his eyes and opened them as best he could. ”What?” he asked in a gravelly voice.
“I said, some chick is stalking you! She just drove by four times – FOUR times! I said, my voice rising as I held up four fingers on one hand to emphasize it, almost pushing it in his face.
I continued to regale him with my brilliant investigative prowess; “SO, I turned on the outside light just as her car pulled up and…” He interrupted me before I could finish.
“You smell like smoke.”
“Who cares?! Some girl is stalking you!” I said again, increasingly impatient with his lack of interest.
“Go guzzle some mouthwash.” he demanded playfully.
“But, some girl is stalking you! Don’t you care? I do!” I blurted out loud this time.
He raised himself up on his elbows and just looked at me, his eyes still at half mast. Then asked, ”Did you even think it might be for one of my brothers?”
He had a point. I surrendered.
“Now go brush your teeth.” he said as he lowered himself back down and rolled over on his side facing me, his cute, come-hither smile too hard to resist.
I got up and did what I was told. Not that it was anything I wouldn’t have done anyway, but now the incentive had a reward attached it. From that moment on, the stalker girl was forgotten and never brought up again.
Back in North Jersey, we looked at apartments but they were pretty pricey, and the affordable ones were dumps that made the shore shack look like a palace. Yes, we could have tried harder, but it was almost as if it wasn’t as big a deal to him as it had been just weeks before. I felt a slight sense of relief, but at the same time, worry. He wanted to live down the shore more than anything, and I was squashing that dream temporarily. So, I chalked up his lack of enthusiasm to that and prayed we found something that would satiate him enough to put that dream on the back burner, at least for a little while.
Not too long after spending what snippets of time we could fit in looking at more apartments, it sorted of petered out and everything returned to how it had always been – enjoying the summer with him and a few nights a week with my friends or a combination of both, especially if there was a party in his ‘hood. The discussions about moving in together were fewer and farther in between, and we continued to see each other minus the pressure..well, pressure for me.
I was still working part-time at the tanning salon, which was 20 minutes closer to his town than my hometown, so when I was done with work, around 10 pm, I’d take the top down on my car, crank up the music and drive to him. I still remember how happy and free I felt on those warm summer night drives. The weather was typically Northeast humid, the air weighing down on my skin like warm, damp clothes, but I liked how the muggy breeze felt as I drove. My hair, however..
When I got there, he’d be waiting, his arms opening for a hug. He’d run his hands over my slippery skin, always asking; “Why didn’t you drive with the top up and the AC cranked?”
“Because I like feeling dewy!’ I’d respond, every single time. Sometimes he’d take the opening and run with it, cracking a dirty joke or whispering something sexy. Sometimes he’d say nothing and just continue to hug me, never caring how sticky I was.
There was always something raw and seductive about a steamy, muggy night in his inner city like town. I still remember our slippery embraces on the crumbling sidewalks, arms sliding on contact with any shift of movement, and cool, damp sweat against my lips when I kissed his forehead or cheek. The smell of thick exhaust from loud, souped up cars on the avenue and hot asphalt permeated the heavy air and distant shouts of profanity laced diatribes, peppered it. It sounds strange, but the grittiness was truly glamorous, an ambiance only second to our nights on the beach.
This was all I needed at this point in my life. No more living together, marriage and babies talk – just love and fun each night until near dawn. I still wanted to make that commitment to him, but figured I’d be ready in about a year or two..and told him so.
“Don’t worry, baby..take your time.” he would say, which although comforting, was starting to disturb me a little. It was too easy…way, way too easy.
Around mid-July his parents hired his construction crew, shrewdly taking advantage of the familial discount, to start building an addition onto their shore house since they would be moving down the there permanently within a year. He figured it would take about two weeks, give or take. We decided I would come down on the weekends, switching out my Saturday afternoon gig at the tanning salon.
I got so caught up in work and friends that I never did make it down. However, it’s not like he was calling and begging me to come, so I assumed they were working like dogs and I didn’t want to be a distraction. There was a lot of summer left and sometimes a little break is a good thing..or so I thought.
We’d talk on the phone once a day or night, so everything seemed cool, but I sensed a little distance at times. I attributed that distance to him working hard and being tired, not to mention the return of the ‘phone hating’ guy from my early college years. I honestly didn’t think there was any cause for alarm. Besides, I was never the naggy type, and I wasn’t about to become the naggy girlfriend.
Once the two weeks were up, he called and said they needed to stay a few more days to finish up some painting. I was so distracted by the fun I was having with my friends, I was actually okay with it, never thinking anything could possibly be off-kilter or worthy of suspicion. I missed him, but knew all would be fine once we were face to face again, especially since he told me how much he missed me.
When he finally came home, we made plans to meet at the bottom of his hill in a parking lot because his street was so narrow, you could stand in the middle of it, arms outstretched, and almost touch two car doors on each side. We’d started doing this a few months before when we watched a car come close to ripping off my car door handle as the driver skedaddled around a truck on the other side of the street. Unfortunately, his driveway only had enough room for two cars..usually his parents and one of his brother’s, and the garage was tiny and used for storage. Dreamboat parked his on the street – confident nothing would happen to it, and nothing ever did, but if it did, it wouldn’t have mattered because as he put it;
“It’s old, a scratch or dent won’t seize the engine. As long as it gets me from point A to point B…”.
I left work, excited to see him, but that excitement was not quite at the level it had been years before. Typical long-term relationship familiarity. Regardless, it was still enough to bring on the butterflies. Tiny butterflies, but butterflies nonetheless.
I pulled into the lot, and he was already there in his usual position – leaning against a car with his arms crossed, a big smile on his face when he saw me. I parked and got out of the car. Suddenly the butterflies swelled to twice their size. Woah, Nellie! Having not seen him for over two weeks, I finally noticed how much of a man he had become. His hair was shorter, no longer brushing his collar, but still long enough that I could run my fingers through it with a little room to spare. He wore a black t-shirt, emblazoned with the logo of his construction company, tucked into faded jeans. The t-shirt accentuated the broadness of his shoulders and fully showcased his perfectly muscled, lightly tanned arms. His body was thicker now, from all the construction work, and well, getting older. He looked freakin’ amazing.
I stood demurely in front of him, my hands clasped behind my back, waiting for him to make the first move. I felt shy. I started to blush. Geeez…what this man could do to me was unreal. Here I was thinking I had grown into a confident, young woman, yet here I was blushing and feeling like a teenager again. Out of sight, slightly out of mind – in sight, crazy out of my mind. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder, I thought, and then I felt my legs gel a little.
Yep, grownup, confident, now experienced, lipstick wearing woman slowly fades to black – enter love struck, cherry lip glossed, teenage girl.
He leaned forward and pulled me to him by the front waistband of my shorts..wrapping me in his arms tight, then gave me a huge, playful kiss on the neck, blowing to make a noise, like a parent does to their small child’s belly. He’d never done that before, but I thought it was cute and returned the favor. He smelled so damn good, although it was a new scent..a more mature scent, perhaps? No matter, all was good again, we were back.
And then he kissed me.
It didn’t feel right. We usually melted into each other and it had been like that since that very first, magical night when I was 15 , squished together in his refurbished Beetle, parked facing Barnegat Bay. He was kissing me differently..so much so, I felt like I was with another person, another person who was an absolutely atrocious kisser. It was almost sloppy, definitely awkward, and worst of all, no love, passion or heat. I pulled away and looked into his eyes, waiting for him to laugh and tell me he was just having fun with me, then pull me in for the real kiss. It didn’t happen, His eyes were question marks, begging – what did I do? I couldn’t help myself..I just blurted it out;
“You’re kissing me weird..it’s different.”
“What are you talking about?” He asked, his blue eyes laced with amusement. ”What’s different?”
How could I tell him it sucked? How could I word it?
“It’s just different. It’s not how you usually kiss me. It doesn’t feel right” I answered, tentatively.
Instead of responding, he turned me around, pushed me up against my car and started kissing me passionately. At first it was still off, but then it slowly reverted back to the way it always was, mostly because he followed my lead. Soon I forgot about the dreadful ‘stranger’ kiss and we were walking back up the hill to his house, his arm firmly around my neck, my fingers entwined in his dangling hand. Once we got there, he lifted me up, threw me over his shoulder and marched my rag doll body up the stairs while I chirped away in fake protest stippled with laughter. He turned the corner to his bedroom and plopped me gently down on the bed. A tickle fight ensued, and again, all was good, until it got serious.
He was touching me clumsily, like he was unfamiliar with my body, reaching for things that weren’t there (yep, I wasn’t blessed in the upper region), fumbling and rushing, It was rough, uncomfortable and incredibly disconcerting. It was as if I was one of those bimbos the guys on the Jersey Shore TV show picked up at the clubs, but only if they were DTF (If you ever watched the show, you know what that stands for..if not, it’s an abbreviation for an easy lay – Down to F&@K), and didn’t care that they were being used..just a ploy to get on TV. Fame whores and gold diggers whom they treated as such.
Yes, I did watch the show, mainly to see Seaside.
After about 20 minutes of this..I’d had enough. I pushed him off of me and sat up.
“This doesn’t feel right.” I said, searching his face for clues that might explain this sudden deviation from the man I knew and loved.
He looked at me, but it was if he was looking right through me, his eyes wholly devoid of any emotion. I remember thinking his pupils looked like pools of cold, dark, polluted water. East River pupils. He told me, in a slightly irritated tone, to relax and stop analyzing everything. It was so unlike him..who the eff was this person?
I stood up and told him I wanted to go home. He tried to pull me back and dissuade me, but it was a little too elaborate to be genuine. Something was up and I didn’t like it nor feel comfortable enough to continue or even hang out with him for the remainder of the evening. He finally gave in and let me go, walking me back down the hill, although I walked a good two feet in front of him. My emotional state was a combination of anger and confusion, overwhelming any desire to talk or look back at him. He didn’t try to catch up with me…just walked slowly behind with his hands in his pockets.
Again, who the eff was this person? Suddenly, the love of my life was a complete stranger.
After a few minutes, I wanted to turn around and look at him, but couldn’t because all I could see was red, a deep, hot flaming red, and I wanted him to feel its burn so he would react in some way, shape or form. How could he have treated me like that and be so indifferent about it?
I was cognitively pleading with him. Do something, say something, come walk beside me..react, dammit! But he didn’t.
As mentioned above, he had been a little weird on the phone when he was away so my optimism and what I thought was logical reasoning, was so off base, I would have been tagged out with nary an effort. That phone person was the one who had fumbled me roughly and carelessly, like an attempt to hold onto a wobbly thrown football in a game that didn’t matter. At that moment, I had been an object, not the supposed love of his life.
My thoughts were scattered during this suddenly long, uncomfortable walk. He smelled different (he was not a cologne guy, but knew I loved one in particular and always wore it for me. This night, for the first time in a long time..he didn’t.), looked different, felt different and acted different. Invasion of the freakin’ Dreamboat Snatchers, I thought.
When I reached my car, I still refused to turn around, just got in, slammed the door shut and peeled out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t even look in my rear view mirror to see if he was watching. I’d show him!
After I calmed down a little on the drive home, I figured I’d overreacted due to a PMS lager monster brewing in my belly, its little pincers pulling at every last nerve, and it was probably just an aberration. Maybe he was tired? Maybe he felt weird after not seeing me for two weeks? Wait, scratch that, I thought as I took a right past a couple fighting on a corner (hmm..was there a full moon out that night?), he was away from me for much longer periods of time during college and was never like that when we reunited. Regardless, I was sure there would be an apologetic and loving message on my answering machine when I got home.
And there wasn’t the next day either, but caller ID let me know that at least he made one attempt, but why wouldn’t he leave a message?
That night at the tanning salon, spurred on by the fact that he had tried to call, I decided to call him. His brother P answered.
“Hi, P..is Dreamboat there?” I asked, hoping Dreamboat would run to the phone once he knew it was me.
“Hey, Lis..sure, hang on a sec.” He replied casually.
I listened as he yelled to Dreamboat that I was on the phone. Then something weird happened. I heard what sounded like muffled whispers. P obviously had his hand over the receiver. Then, instead of Dreamboat’s voice, P came back on.
“Uhh..I think he went out, Lis, not sure when he’ll be back.” He said, unconvincingly.
I knew it was bullshit, I knew Dreamboat was there. I felt sick.
“Really, P, or does he just not want to talk to me?” I asked, suddenly feeling desperate and incredibly vulnerable.
“No..he really isn’t here.” P said, again, unconvincingly. I could tell he wasn’t comfortable lying to me.
I said goodbye and hung up. I was really feeling sick now. I had to know the truth, so I called Raven and asked her to call in a few minutes and ask for him. Different voice, different result?
10 minutes later, Raven called back. This is what went down.
Raven: “Hi, is Dreamboat there?”
P “Yeah, hang on a sec.”
Raven hears Dreamboat whisper “Who is it?” in the background. P says, “I don’t know, just talk” and gives him the phone. P didn’t want to deal with this screening crap anymore.
Raven: “Hi, Dreamboat, it’s Raven..obviously you ARE home, could you call Lisa?”
Dreamboat: ”No..I wasn’t home, I had to go to the bank, just got back.”
Raven: “Okay, whatever..just call her.”
As soon as she finished telling me, the call waiting beeped. It was him.
“Hey” he said nonchalantly..”I just went to the bank, no idea why P made it sound like I was out for the night.” he lied ”I tried to call you at home a few times, did you see?”
“Yeah, I saw, why didn’t you leave a message?” I asked, my guts twisting into tight coils. This was NOT my Dreamboat.
“I dunno..you know how I am about the phone and answering machines” He said, his voice saturated in cool.
Answering machines too? It was complete bull because he had left plenty of messages before, and I told him just that.
“Well..I guess I’m still a little pissed about what happened the other night” He sort of muttered, trying to convey anger with a faux edge to his voice. I knew when Dreamboat was mad and there was no anger here, just ambivalence.
Oh man, this was bad.
I decided to let it go because I wanted to make up and try and find out what had gotten into him.
“Okay, well..I can come by after work and we can talk about it if you want.” I said as I spun a pen around and around on a piece of paper, ripping it from the pressure, hoping his response would be a positive one. Say yes. say yes, please say yes.
His voice softened a bit and I braced myself. ”I’m sorry, baby, after what happened, I thought you needed some time to cool off, so I made plans to go to Virginia Beach for a 4 day weekend. We’re leaving in a few hours – driving there.”
Virgina Beach?? WHAT? Who did he know in Virginia Beach? He’d never mentioned Virginia Beach ..ever. In fact, outside of Jersey and NYC, he never expressed an interest in traveling anywhere. Heck, he never even came to Boston when I was there, although, at the time, I was okay with that.
The thing is, I didn’t even ask who he was going with..I just assumed it was probably one of his construction crew friends who had a house or relatives there. I still can’t fathom why I thought that.
“You’re going to Virginia Beach?? Why?” I asked frantically.
“I dunno, never seen it before, just decided to go.” He replied, still trying to sound edgy, but this time with a hint of cool again, as if I wouldn’t pick up on this subterfuge of vocal tones.
Instead of asking the usual questions any girlfriend would ask, I saw it as him blowing me off to make me pay for what happened that night. I was positive he just made it up off the top of his head, not unlike when you spin a globe and wherever your finger lands is your travel destination, or made up destination.
Years later, I still occasionally wonder how I could have been so damn naive.
“Okay, if you go to Virginia Beach this weekend, don’t bother calling me when you get home, because we will be OVER!!” I shouted with authentic anger. Ugh, I had turned into that girl.
He immediately shifted his tone into soft gear aka placate her, taking aim with his tranquilizer gun;
“Baby, I’ll call you the minute I get home and we’ll get together and talk, okay?”
Then “I love you”, which seemed so out of place and so, so wrong in this awful moment. He continued to repeat, “I will call you as soon as I get home.”, over and over, obvious filler to my sudden, shocked silence. I finally snapped out of it and sliced through his repetitious chant with a jagged edge of bitch;
“NO! Do not call me when you get home, we’re through!” then slammed the phone down hard, wishing he could feel it physically.
Now I was that girl and then some. Dang. I was not handling this well at all.
I waited, hoping he would call back, but he didn’t. I sat there staring into space for a few minutes – completely numb. I knew I couldn’t call him back because once I lifted the folded flaps in the corners of our relationship, he wanted something I was not ready to give him and that’s what I thought it was all about. It was him pulling away because he thought he’d never get that from me, right?
I still hadn’t cried. I was grateful that there were no more appointments and I could close up. I locked the doors, then grabbed a bunch of clean towels for the tanning booths and beds and started folding them, not feeling a thing – terry cloth anesthesia. The numbness was more than welcome – a warm, cozy blanket that swaddled me tight and soothed, keeping me from breaking down into a heaving, sobbing mess. As I continued folding, the blanket began to calcify, hardening into an impermeable, granite like shield.
I think I’m going to be okay.
Once done, I started walking from room to room to place them on the chairs. I felt lighter, and in fact, did I just detect a slight bounce in my step? Yeah, I was going to be okay, I thought, smiling to myself. Damn, I was stronger than I realized!
Then the opening guitar chords to Stairway to Heaven softly whispered through the speakers - almost enjoying what it was gonna do to me. My bouncy legs turned to jelly, but not in the way they did during those wondrous, early years with him. This was bad jelly, weak jelly, rip my heart out and carelessly toss it in the trash like an apple core, jelly. The granite like shield cracked, then crumbled as I slid down a corner wall, dropping the towels..and cried for a long, long time, a heaving, sobbing mess.
He called when he got home. I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer subsequent calls the next day either. He even left a message once; “Hi, it’s me..I’m home, call me.”. None of the usual ‘I love yous’ or sweetness. He was cold, but at least he said something.
I decided to wait a bit before returning his call because I did end it, (even though I didn’t mean it) and didn’t want him to think he could treat me like that and get away with it. I hated myself for playing this game, but desperately needed to hold onto that last vestige of pride somewhere inside of me.
I finally broke and called him 3 hours later, completely wimping out on the the tough girl 48 hours I wanted to simmer in to save face. His youngest brother answered and said he was working down the shore for the rest of the week, so I called him there.
A female answered and it wasn’t his mother. I did a quick equation of deduction – both of his brothers and parents were back in North Jersey, so this female was his.
Part 23 in one week.
Tags: Asiago cheese, baking, broccoli rabe, Dough, garlic, mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto, provolobe cheese, rapini, Roasted red Peppers, stromboli, Yeast
One of my favorite sandwiches in the world is prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers or in Jersey Italian – prah-joot, mootz-ar-ell and peppuhs. When I was perusing through my assigned blog, Paulchen’s Blog?!, for this month’s Secret Recipe Club..I struckstromboli, and the first thing I thought of was how perfect one of my favorite sandwiches in the world would be wrapped up and baked as a stromboli. I kept wavering back and forth between the stromboli and these butterscotch brownies...because next to being a peanut butter freak..I’m a pretty heavy butterscotch user too.
In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking how melty and gooey would work well for this sandwich combination in a stromboli – so that was it, decision made. BUT, as I thought it over, I wanted more cheese, another cheese, like provolone and definitely something green and garlicky to cut into all that rich, gooey cheese. Oh, and why not top it with yet another cheese ? Asiago, perhaps? OK, now we’ve got three cheeses, roasted red peppers and prosciutto. What about the green stuff?
Yes, I’m taking you through my actual thought process at the time.
I pondered it for a bit and then it came to me..broccoli rabe aka rapini! The slightly bitter and earthy undertones would be ideal and cut the richness of the cheese..especially sauteed in a little garlic and oil. I added some hot chili flakes to give it a kick..but that’s optional, since some don’t like food that makes their tongue burn and nose sweat.
Now..I don’t want you to confuse broccoli rabe with broccoli, because they are nothing alike. Broccoli is related to the cabbage family. Broccoli rabe is related to the turnip family, and it’s a leafy green with buds that resemble tiny heads of broccoli..hence the name broccoli rabe. BUT, plain old garlicky broccoli also works well and is fantastic in this stromboli. So if you’d rather not charter unfamiliar green territory, substitute broccoli for the broccoli rabe.
If you get a chance, pop on over to Paulchen’s Blog?! and check out all of her delicious goodies! To see what my fellow Group A SRC members chose from their assigned blogs, click on the blue frog below to see the gallery of links.
I’m also submitting this stromboli to this month’s #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchess, and Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. I’m also going to submit this to Shelley’s BBD #53 -Swirly breads.
One more thing. I couldn’t get a melty, drippy, gooey cheesy photo because it was way too hot to handle (the encapsulated heat burned my fingers when I tried) and I was by myself when I made and photographed it. BUT, you should have seen all the cheesy goo dripping with each slice when I first cut it open gently, on the cutting board (It was so hot, it hurt!). It was almost seductive, especially when it started to drip/stretch to the floor! Man, If I could have gotten a photo of that…..
Three Cheese Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper, Broccoli Rabe Stromboli
Dough from Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno via Paulchen’s Blog
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 bunch of broccoli rabe washed and woody stems removed (If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccoli instead, blanching it first))
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
hot chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 or 3 large red bell peppers, roasted seeded, peeled - each one sliced flat, into 3 or 4 pieces, blotted dry
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
8 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
Asiago or any Italian hard grating cheese
* If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccolini or just broccoli.
1. Make the dough. Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup of tepid water in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center and pour in dissolved yeast and the oil. Mix in flour from sides of well. Stir in reserved water, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, silky, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with clean kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4. While dough is resting..roast your peppers and prepare the broccoli rabe. Cut the cleaned and trimmed bunch of broccoli rabe in half, then boil in two inches of salted water for about 3 to 4 minutes. Strain and drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Strain again and blot dry. Heat the tablespoon of olive in a saute pan. Add the minced garlic and saute until soft but not browned. Add broccoli rabe a little at a time until wilted. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and add your desired amount of hot chili flakes, if using. Remove the rabe from the pan to a plate to cool.
5. Punch down the risen dough and place it on a floured board. Cover and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes, to relax the gluten.
6. Roll the rested dough into a 14″ x 8″ rectangle. Cover with clean towel and let rest another 10 minutes.
7. Spread the mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe evenly over dough, layer by layer in the order listed.
8. Roll up the dough, starting at one of the shorter sides, but without rolling too tightly. Seal well.
9. Place on oiled baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Use a skewer or knife to pierce several holes through the dough all the way down to the baking sheet. Brush loaf with olive oil, them top with peels of asiago cheese (or any hard Italian grating cheese you prefer).
10. Bake at 400 degrees F for about an hour until golden brown. Let rest a few minutes before slicing.
Now to Part 16 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, Part 14A is HERE, Part 14B is HERE and Part 15 is HERE.
Nothing says I spent the night with my boyfriend more than walking through the door at 7:30 am, disheveled, when your parent’s know your flight landed on time the night before. Even though I was now considered an adult – the way they looked at me as they sat at the breakfast table with their coffee and the paper, still made me cringe like a 10-year old getting caught with one hand in the cookie jar before dinner.
I managed to spit out some BS before darting up to my room.
“We stopped at Dreamboat’s house so I could say hi to his family. I fell asleep on the couch.”
I heard their disbelieving “Uh Huh’s” as I made my way up the stairs. Welcome home!
We were inseparable for the 4 days I had before I had to leave again, but it would only be one month until winter break, so I decided to break off the undefined ‘thing’ I had with hockey guy when I got back to school. I’d have a little over two weeks with Dreamboat in 4 weeks..and my love for him was stronger than ever..I didn’t want anyone else – ever again.
Easier said than done. As I looked into hockey guy’s sweet face and warm brown eyes the night I got back, after he welcomed me with a bear hug and kiss..I felt kind of sad. I liked him, but I didn’t want to lead him on, but I was so sure I going to marry Dreamboat and I told him that. He looked a tad pissed, but also slightly amused.
“You’ve only been here three months, Lisa…and you’re a kid. Making a life decision like that now, with years of college to go, is a little premature, don’t ya think?”
It was then I realized I was slowly splitting into two people. When home with Dreamboat, I was a starry-eyed teenager. At college, I had already cracked the teenage eggshell and was chipping away at adulthood – one eye and a foot peeking through the jagged edges. With hockey guy there were no intense butterflies, no walking on air, but there was a more mature kind of excitement – the kind of excitement where you get lost in a conversation and then turn a little gooey.
BUT..I stood my ground. Within two weeks, I sort of regretted it. I was back to ‘college Lisa’, where I had the uncanny ability to put Dreamboat on hold because he did not exist in my college world. I couldn’t even imagine him visiting because he didn’t fit into this other part of my life. I likened it to a lone palm tree thriving on Commonwealth Avenue in January.
I couldn’t completely understand these feelings, but somehow they made sense somewhere in my naïve and somewhat cockeyed view of life at the time.
The pull between me and hockey guy wasn’t going away anytime soon, and there were a few moments and stolen kisses when we ran into each other at various places, but I tried hard to keep those to a minimum.
I spent the rest of my freshman year studying, partying, hanging with my new friends, and packing on another 7 lbs – finally surrendering to new clothes that would fit since I busted most of my zippers.
“Survival of the Fittest” What do you call the jeans in your closet without broken zippers, Alex?
It was the first time in my life clothes shopping was not fun.
When I arrived home for summer vacation, I was determined to whittle off the weight and spend as much time with Dreamboat as possible. He was no longer going to work on the pier because the job in North Jersey paid well, plus, at 21, he felt he had outgrown it. Naturally, I was happy about that.
I got a part-time job at a makeup boutique on the second floor of an upscale mall and I was floored when I was hired. A young woman, not much older than me, who was apparently given the authority to hire people, asked if I knew how to do makeup and if I had ‘done’ makeup before. Sure!! On myself and my friends! But, a simple ‘Yes’ nabbed me the job.
I was alone all the time..closing the boutique since I worked from 4 to 9 pm. It was the best job ever, especially since I had the whole day before work to spend at my friend’s pool. Barely anyone ever came up to the second floor because it was even more pricey than the first floor, so I talked on the phone to friends, lived on diet fudge soda, and avoided the escalator at all costs, taking the stairs constantly in my quest to drop that freshman weight. My own little mall gym.
The whole time I worked there, only two people asked for makeovers. Since I had no experience doing it professionally, I ended up doing their makeup like I did my own. Thank god it was only two women because anyone who came in was going to look like me if they wanted a makeover. One of them asked for eyeshadow, which I didn’t wear. Umm..ok.
I grabbed some pink, blue, brown and green eyeshadow – glopping large amounts of all four on each lid, then blended them all together with a brush, emulating what I’d seen real makeup artists do. There – eyeshadow. She really liked it. I think she looked like a clown. I refused to let her leave until I fixed it.
Those were the exciting nights.
After closing up..I’d push open the wide glass doors to the upper deck parking lot and there he was most nights..waiting in his car. We did a lot of fun things that summer, including a Springsteen concert..well sort of.a Springsteen concert
By that time, I’d dropped some of the weight, so I went shopping on a break and chose a pretty, pale pink, cotton sleeveless dress. Not the norm for a rock concert, but I was feeling great and was in the mood to dress up a little. Dreamboat told me I looked amazing …I blushed. The blush again. He could still make me blush and remained the only person who could do so.
Well, well, well.. much to my dismay, it turned out that Dreamboat and his friends didn’t have tickets to the concert. They planned to buy from scalpers. Springsteen playing in NJ? To many NJ natives, it’s almost a religious experience. Your chances of buying a ticket, even a seat way up in the heavens, for less than the price of a small island, were about as great as wrestling an alligator and winning with nary a scratch.
So..we hung out in the parking lot, listening to the music blasting from the arena.
Another night in a damn parking lot.
The girl I was a year before would have been fine with that simply because I was with him. The girl blossoming into adulthood, not so much.
I saw a door on the side of the arena open. I started walking toward it with a strange boost of confidence, not knowing where it led to, but knowing I had to walk through it. Dreamboat tried to stop me, but I ignored him, walking faster. He started following me, repeatedly asking where I was going, but I kept walking without a response, only reaching back to grab his hand and pull him along with me.
To this day I can’t explain the feeling, but it was like I was being led by something not of this earth.
I walked right through the door, past security, past a lot of VIP suits. Nobody inside that door said a word as I kept walking, the music now deafening. Dreamboat was uttering all kinds of shit, like “You’re crazy, baby!”, but his eyes proved otherwise when we walked through a large, dark entrance with neon lights and screaming people. right into one of the aisles of the floor seats. Soon we were in the 4th row, standing in front of exactly two empty seats and Bruce.
Dreamboat couldn’t stop hugging and kissing me, beaming, yelling in my ear that he could not believe I did that and how he was shocked that no one stopped us. At that moment, the roles were reversed – he was the starry-eyed kid and I was the confident adult. We got to enjoy the last hour of the show, eradicating the disappointment I felt when we first arrived and he told me neither he nor his friends had tickets.
I could have tried walking through that door 20 more times after that and I probably would have been stopped, but there was something magical and symbolic about that particular night The door was more than a pathway to Bruce Springsteen, it was a pathway to independence, leading for once, not following, and doing something I normally wouldn’t even think of doing.
When we got back to the parking lot, his friends were frantic, but not frantic enough to drop the amusing barbs..
“Where did youse two go? We thought Bruce kidnapped you!”
I loved listening to Dreamboat tell them what I did, his eye sparkling. He was proud of me. I couldn’t help thinking – wow, he’s proud of me, but what I did was sorta criminal, wasn’t it? I stole an hour of Bruce Springsteen. Then again, the security guards didn’t do their job, right?
That was the excuse I used to dilute any feelings of wrongdoing…not that I really cared.
Although I was still completely enamored with Dreamboat, I started to notice something that bugged me just a bit. I wanted conversation, conversation outside of lovey-dovey talk and trivial stuff, like..
“Sal bought me lunch today..nice guy. I had a hero with the works, it was awesome.”
So, I’d start stretching out the conversation just to have a conversation.
“Was there mortadella on it? Ham? Salami? What kind of cheese? Oil and vinegar or garlic aioli?” TELL ME ABOUT EVERY COLD CUT ON THAT DAMN SANDWICH!. Okay, I never requested the latter, but it’s what I was thinking.
After too many moments where I would start chattering excitedly about something I saw on the news, a book I was reading, or something relating to a class I took in college, being cut short with a response from him along the lines of..
“Really? Wow, that’s great, baby.”
“Sounds pretty cool”
“Oh, that’s too bad”
..I realized as much as I loved him, he just wasn’t a deep conversationalist. He wasn’t dumb by any stretch and in fact was extremely street smart, much more than many people I knew and know to this day, but the stuff I wanted to talk about just didn’t interest him.
To me, ur relationship had always been a deep red, flawless, shiny apple, but now there was slight nick in it., almost invisible to the naked eye, but it was there if you looked closely. When he’d brush my hair back, caress my cheek and start kissing me, that nick would disappear…for the time being.
No relationship is perfect and without nicks, they’d seem almost artificial, so I let it go and just accepted the fact that I’d never be discussing the congressional hearings on White Water or composers/books I loved, with him, like I could with most of my friends at school and….hockey guy.
Hockey guy. Hmmm. I wondered how his summer was going?
My luxurious job ended unceremoniously one Monday in early August, and this is where I digress a little.
I came to work and the place was already gutted. Since there were just three of us who worked separate shifts by ourselves and barely knew each other…the word that they were closing shop hadn’t been passed on to me. ”What the….”, I thought as I surveyed the almost empty store. The owner’s daughter – dressed to the nine’s with too much makeup, her light brown hair perfectly coiffed, and her husband a kind of nondescript looking guy, were there packing up the merchandise. She had a colossal amount of chutzpah and a major attitude.
“Oh, you must be one of three who works for us. Do me a favor and go down to the Chinese place in the food court and get us two orders of chicken lo mein..NO MSG, and two large cokes.” She said, waving a 10 dollar bill at me in a talon like grip.
Umm..no intro? No please? Did she even know my name? Well, I guess I was still her employee so I did what she asked, hating myself for kowtowing to her obnoxious demand.
They sat at what was once was the makeup counter..now just a section of the formerly U-shaped block of glass and steel, and ate while she continued to bark demands at me.
“Go in back and bring out the boxes I left by the bathroom.” She demanded, while shiving long, skinny worms of lo mein between her fuschia painted lips. ”Oh, and sweep the floor while you’re back there.”
Yes, your highness…rude bitch, rather
Her husband didn’t say a word. He seemed a little afraid of her. I figured he was castrated on their wedding day.
When I finished, I came back up front. She waved me over “Hey, I have your commission” HEY?? I couldn’t ignore that one.
“MY name is LISA” I said, trying not to raise my voice, or growl.
“OK, Lisa..whatever..here’s your commission.” She muttered dismissively.
She stuck the tip of a perfectly mauve lacquered nail on the edge of a five dollar bill, as if it was something repulsive, not worthy of touching her skin, and slid it toward me. It was wet. The bitch had spilled her soda on it.
Five bucks commission? Well, if they didn’t overcharge for their crap makeup, maybe some would have actually bought some of it, I thought as I took the bill and turned to leave. She didn’t deserve a thank you. She called me back with a condescending edge to her voice, as if to say “Hey, we’re not finished with you yet..we’re going to milk every drop of you as our employee, dry!”
“Help us carry some of this stuff out to the U-Haul we rented” she said, as she smoothed her overly sprayed hair with one hand to make sure there was not a strand out-of-place. I grabbed two bags and a box, walked to the U-Haul and threw them in. I was fuming. I heard her screechy voice as I walked to my car..
“If you want to use me as a reference for another job, call me!”
I didn’t have her number, she didn’t offer it, and I didn’t care.
That night Dreamboat was treated to a huge serving of rage and potty mouth as I told him the story, still angry and completely disgusted with myself for not telling her where to shove her wet 5 dollar bill. He stroked my hair as I rambled on, his head against the seat facing me, taking in all of my ire with a cute smile. He always enjoyed my feisty side. Suddenly his smile faded a bit and his eyes softened. I asked him what was wrong.
“My girl is all grown up.” he said softly.
I didn’t get it. I looked at him quizzically.
“I dunno..you talk different, you say what’s on your mind a lot..I guess college changed you a little.”
“Is that a bad thing?” I asked timidly
“Not at all, sweetheart..everyone has to grow up sometime.”
He pulled me to him and started kissing me to signal the end of that conversation. As usual, I was putty in his arms and my horrid day evaporated into thin air.
Now that I was no longer part of the work force and he had a week vacation coming up, he asked if I wanted to go down the shore. Of course I did, especially now that I’d lost the freshman 15 and then some. I was feeling pretty good and he knew it, since I allowed him to touch my stomach again.
We had his parent’s shore house to ourselves because his younger brother was staying with his girlfriend house a few blocks away since her parents were gone for a few weeks, and P also had a job back home and could only come down on weekends. His parents were visiting relatives in Maryland. No..it wasn’t perfect timing, he chose this particular week to take off because he knew the house would be empty.
Staying alone together at the house was thrilling at first, but within a few days it sort of felt like we were a little old married couple. We did a lot of ‘couple’ things with his friend Andy and his girlfriend, now his fiancé.
“I could get used to this” He said one evening as we snuggled in front of the TV after they left.
It was weird being able to spend all day and night with him down the shore. I’d never spent prime time hours walking the boardwalk or lazing on the beach for hours during the day with him. I found myself watching groups of girls a few years or less younger than me doing what I used to do with my friends – chattering away on a big beach blanket, or hurrying down the boardwalk at night, again chattering away, heading somewhere and extremely excited to get there.
I missed my friends being there with me. I wanted it to be like it used to be – as recently as one year earlier. I wanted that excitement of going to meet him or him coming to get me after work. I wanted to feel young again. I look back and laugh now – I was just about 19, but that week..I felt old.
We went to our special beach one night, instinctively reaching for each other’s hand as we walked toward and along the shoreline in the moonlight. We talked about the night we reconnected and my almost face plant that ripped up my knee. He pulled me into the water, knee deep, recreating that first passionate kiss after being apart a year. My whole body melted as it did on that very special night, but this time tears started running down my face mid kiss. I was going back to school in two weeks, and I was going to miss him terribly, but there was a very unfamiliar feeling pulsing against the heartbreak.
I was kind of excited to get back to school.
“It’s going to harder letting you go this time, baby” He whispered in between kisses, wiping my tears
“I know” I whispered back..and left it at that.
How could I love him so deeply but want to leave him? Even though this new feeling was small change compared to the sad range of emotions of leaving him again..it bothered me.
His brother, P, came down the following Friday. Saturday morning a car pulled up in front of Dreamboat’s shore house…beeping. I ran to the couch to peer out the window.
“Geeez,you’re like the freakin’ dogs, running to the window when someone’s outside.” I heard Dreamboat say as I kept my eye on the car..the car with a girl behind the wheel. There was an eerie silence behind me, so I looked back at them.
Dreamboat remained calm, but was looking at P – not taking his eyes off of him for even a second..a glare that screamed ‘do something..now!’. P didn’t say a word – they had brain waves going on, like me and my best friend had in all the years we were close. P jumped up and ran outside, almost in a panic. I watched him lean down to the window and say something to the girl, then watch her drive away, making sure she was gone before making his way back into the house.
“Who was that?” I asked Dreamboat while still watching P walk toward the house.
“Just a friend of P’s” he answered nonchalantly
“Oh..ok” I answered, not believing him completely. I saw ‘the look’ he gave P. I knew him too well. The truth is..I didn’t want to know, just like he wouldn’t want to know about hockey guy.
Ignorance was bliss in this case, and ‘knowing’ would make me sick to my stomach.
One night back in North Jersey, two days before I was leaving for school, we sat in his car silently, gazing at the Manhattan skyline. His eyes were glistening a little in the darkness. I reached over and rubbed my fingers around the side of one and felt wetness, most definitely tears. I hugged him, trying to love away those tears..but he pulled back a little.
“There’s something I need to tell you” he said “I wasn’t honest with you about something.”. His voice sounded weird, almost quivery, and it was the first time I’d ever heard him like that..and the first time he didn’t try to mask his tears.
NO NO NO, I thought..I don’t want to know!! I knew what he was going to say and I desperately wanted to plug my ears with cement.
“Don’t” I said, shooting warning daggers at him with my eyes although my voice belied that anger via choking up.
It was like he didn’t hear me..”That girl..the one that came by the shore house that day…”
NO! I tried to say it..but it wasn’t coming out. I guess I was going to have to hear it..it was too late.
“…when we worked on Tom’s house (his boss’s house down the shore) in early November..I took her out a few times..I knew her from the neighborhood, she lives there year round.”
I heard myself shouting..but everything was spilling out uncontrollably….”WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME?? I DON’T WANT TO KNOW..WE PROMISED EACH OTHER WE WOULDN’T TELL!!!”
The tears were now running down his face. He hugged me and pressed his cheek against mine – a half-assed or desperate plea for forgiveness, neither of which I could ascertain. His tears began soaking my cheek, rolling to my jawline. Hmmm..a change of pace for once. I guess I owed him a soak or ten.
“Baby..I hated lying to you when you asked. If you hadn’t asked, I never would have said anything.”
Now I was crying. I hated that he had given me this cross to bear. I had to think of him with another woman, and now I had to know more – I wanted details.
“Did you sleep with her? Did you see her more before I came home for the summer? Are you going to see her again? And then the most important question of all;
“DO YOU LOVE HER?”
Part 17 – the final part..coming soon.
Potato Rosti with Bacon, Brie, Scallions and a Quick and Easy Brown Butter Applesauce – Plus, Bad Boy First Love, Part Four.February 15, 2012 at 2:44 am | Posted in Breakfast, Daring Cooks, Dinner, Gluten Free, Pork, Vegetables | 44 Comments
Tags: Bacon, Bacon Lardons, Brie, Brown butter Apple Sauce, cooking, Potato Rosti, recipes, Roasted red Peppers, Rosti, Scallions
Happy Valentines Day, err, Eve, everyone! I had this post scheduled to go up at 5pm last night. Apparently I didn’t use GMT, so it’s now the 15th. Well, it’s still Valentine’s Day on the West Coast! I hope you all had an amazing day and are now getting your lips kissed off – or eating chocolate.
Since I have Part Four of my Bad Boy First Love written and it’s like a mile long, I’m going to try and keep my Daring Cooks section as short and sweet as I can. We were asked to make fried patties of some sort, and one of the recipes offered to us was potato rosti, which is sort of a mix between a giant potato latke and hash browns. I added bacon lardons, scallions and brie to mine. It was suggested that the use of a cast iron skillet was ideal, and I have three; an 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch, all well-seasoned, or so I thought.
Once the underside of my rosti was cooked, some careful inspection revealed there was no way I was flipping this baby over without it falling apart. SO, I stuck it under the broiler to finish it and brown the top. We cut slices out of the pan, and it came out well, but it still would have broken into pieces had I tried to flip it.
I topped some slices with a sunny side up egg with roasted red bell pepper hearts (cutting the egg into a heart shape proved a little difficult since the white was so delicate and thin in some areas, but I did my best, and I think it still resembles somewhat of a heart (??). For the rest of the rosti, I made a super quick brown butter-cinnamon chunky applesauce, which was wonderful with it – recipe following.
The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax (my pal) & Lis (one of my wifeypoos) and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!
Next time I make a potato rosti I will either use a non-stick pan, or make damn sure my cast iron skillet is VERY well seasoned, and I will definitely use an 8-inch pan since I halved the recipe, and 10-inches gave me a rather thin rosti. I prefer them a little thicker.
After drowning out my Mother’s yelling, I fell asleep, just to be nudged awake by my friend only a few short hours later. We always hit the beach by 10 am at the latest and went all the way until 4-5 pm. A savage tan was always the goal. Crazy to even imagine it now – I don’t even entertain the idea of the beach without 1 billion UVB sunblock! Being super young and feeling immortal is fun while it lasts. I’m a staunch supporter of the occasional spray tan, nowadays.
On our way out the door, my mother warned me she was going to go to a pay phone and call my father (the cottage had no phone, but when you’re at the beach you really don’t care) to tell inform him we’d been sneaking out. I blew off her threatening words as we pushed the door open and got the hell out of there.
After a breakfast of orange julius, we made our way to the most populated area of the beach…the one between the two piers. We always rented places at the end of the boardwalk near Ortley Beach and usually used the less crowded beach there, but it really depended on our moods. On that particular day we wanted quick access to some clothes and accessories we were eyeing at Sand Tropez, a cool sort of ‘everything’ store on the boardwalk.
I was still floating on air as we trudged through the hot sand to grab a spot close to the ocean. I knew my friend wanted to talk about everything, but I just couldn’t give it all up..it was so special, so personal (little did I know, many years later, I would be giving every detail to a lot of people I don’t know, on a food blog no less!).
“Yes, we kissed, but I spilled lemonade all over his lap in the middle of it” I told her as I slathered bain de soleil up and down my arms, We cracked up as I explained the whole scenario in more detail.
“Was he good kisser?” she asked
That part, I also couldn’t contain, and I went all googly 15 year old on her. ”OMG, the best, we made out for hours! I really think I love him!”
She looked over at me, squinting, using her hand as a visor to shield her eyes from the bright sun, “You just met him, you can’t love him!”
I just smiled and settled in to bake, Oh, little did she know. I knew she was going to ask more questions so I quickly asked her about her night, It was so strange, I wanted to keep it all to myself for a while. There was something so sacred about it to me, like if I told her ALL the details, the magic we had would blow away in wind and I’d never have it back.
Luckily, she bit. She liked hunky monkey, but apparently he couldn’t keep his ‘paws’ off of her once they had some time alone. He didn’t force it, but it left her kind of ‘feh’ on him. But, she wanted to see him again, so he hadn’t been kicked to the friend , or worse, pig zone, just yet..
While we played in the ocean, baked in the sun, joked with guys who came armed with bad pick-up lines, and made up ‘pretend’ stories about people lounging around us..I couldn’t help looking over at the pier every so often, butterflies zipping through my digestive system, knowing he’d be there at 4pm, and then..at midnight, we’d meet again. I kept replaying the night/early morning over and over in my head. I could still feel him, smell him..especially in the crook of my left arm, which I’d bury my face in when lying on my stomach to even my tan.
On our way back to the cottage, well-baked and happy, albeit exhausted, we passed the Casino Pier. She grabbed my arm and pulled..
“Come on, go say hi to him now!” she said, laughing hysterically. She knew there was no way I’d show my NOT showered, ocean-haired, greasy, suntan oiled skin, ‘self’ to him. We pulled back and forth – screaming and laughing even harder.
I bet you can guess what happened. I turned around and there he was, walking toward us – he’d taken a quick break to buy some sodas.
OH NO. OH NO. OH NO. Now it was over for sure! I quickly pulled my sticky, tangled hair out of the pony tail holder and fluffed as best I could.
Then. I started plotting my friend’s sudden death.
“Just get off the beach, silly girls?” he asked as he approached us. That smile again…JELL-O legs.
He took my hand and pulled me to him for a kiss, then wrapped his arms around me. I was so gross! How could he even look at me, much less touch me!?!
“Mmmm…your skin is so warm – you smell like a pina colada.” he whispered while my friend, a few feet away now, watched us with a wicked smile.
I started explaining why I looked so hideous. He laughed and told me I was “too cute” and looked great. I hadn’t realized he had such bad eyesight.
He lightly rolled a cold soda can down my back..which initially made me jump, but felt good in the heat. Then he asked if all went well when I went inside after he dropped me off. I told him the truth, leaving out the ‘curfew’ and ‘snuck out’ part, making it as if she was just pissed because she couldn’t sleep when it got really late and I wasn’t home. He looked concerned..
“Would it be better if we picked you up tonight so you don’t have to walk all the way down the boardwalk that late? I’ll turn off the ignition and coast to the house next door, so we don’t wake her up.”
He was too awesome for words. I wondered how many lives I saved in my previous life.
I looked at my friend and she flashed me an affirmative with her eyes. Remember, we had ‘Brain Wave’ communication skills.
“That would be great, you’re so thoughtful..thank you so much.” I said, sweetly.
“You’re so polite, it’s cute” he said..then pulled me back to him and gave me a long kiss. DAMN..can spontaneous combustion occur from intense passion for someone?
“I’ll be there about quarter after midnight, ok?”
“Yes, perfect!” *I love you..I know I love you, I can’t explain what else this feeling is, but you saw me looking like this, and still want me – I am definitely in love with you*
“Stop by tonight and visit me if you’re around the pier” *Oh, I want to, but I don’t want you to get sick of me so soon – BUT, I probably will stop by, regardless, because I can’t resist this man*
As we turned and started home, I got a whole bunch of “Are you going to thank me, huh? huh?” cracks from my friend.
Little did she know how precariously close to death she had been if he had walked away in horror at the sight of me.
When we got back to the cottage, we showered then napped for about two hours. During a quick dinner of chicken salad sandwiches, we devised a plan to sneak out without getting caught now that Mommy Dearest was on to us. We’d stay in tonight..just hang outside with our new local girl friends. No ‘getting ready’ while my Mother was awake, just a casual night in the neighborhood. Then we’d ‘get ready’ and stuff clothes and whatever we could find that resembled heads, under our blankets. An oldie, but goodie.
All was perfect come midnight..my mother bought our ‘casual night’ at home and conked out around 10:30 pm. We rushed to get ready..brushing our teeth, flipping and fluffing our hair in unison in front of the mirror, applying lip gloss, dabbing the sunburn on our noses with cover-up. Earrings in, then a walk through a spritz of our favorite scents. We were out the door by 10 after midnight. Within minutes they were coasting up, headlights off.
When I settled into the front seat, he said he had a surprise for me, He motioned toward a cup holder attached to the door next to me. I laughed, but almost cried at his gesture. I wanted to kiss his face all over – but saved that for when we were alone. No need to disgust the backseat occupants chatting away about some obscure movie the monkey wanted to see.
We dropped my friend and hunky monkey off at his place, then he asked if I minded if we stopped at a friend’s house because he had to pick up some CD’s. Like I said in previous parts of this story, as long as I was with him, I could watch paint dry. Onward to your friend’s place, future husband – but really…
“Sure, that’s fine” trying to keep my voice from squeaking because I was way too overjoyed being in his intoxicating, foxy presence.
Then came the face kissing to thank him for the cup holder. He said he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. *Is it okay for the woman to propose?*
When we got there, his friend was hanging with his girlfriend watching TV. Introductions all around. Dreamboat came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, kissing my cheek as he and his friend talked. I loved his affection, it was like being showered in warm, melted chocolate. We stayed for about a half hour and Dreamboat always near..holding my hand, keeping his arm around me. I chatted with his friend’s girlfriend a bit and she told me how many woman were after my bad boy. Great, just what I need to hear. I told her I’d seen it with my own eyes. She laughed and said..
“He’s like a rock star on the pier, does it bother you?”
A little, I thought, but actually said - “Noo, not at all, I mean, he doesn’t even seem to notice it, he’s so down to earth and cool about it” I responded, patting myself on the back for such a brilliant, but chill, answer.
“He’s a really great guy, and he’s really into you - I’ve never seen him like this with anyone.” she said very nonchalantly while sipping her beer and glancing at a commercial about bed bugs.
Apparently I wasn’t the first girl who got a stint at Andy’s. Didn’t bother me one bit, though..there was no way this guy was dateless and celibate before me. I just hoped I was the one who stuck. Wait, make that desperately hoped.
When we finally left..he told me he’d take me anywhere I wanted to go. I wanted to go back to ‘our place’, the scene of the lemonade disaster. He held my hand as he drove, in between switching gears. The connection between us was crazy intense..just holding his hand sent all kinds of sexy reverberations from the tips of my toes to the hair on my head.
He kissed my lips off again for the next 2 1/2 to 3 hours, in between a walk along the bay, lots of playfulness and just pure exhilaration and a monster connection. He almost told me he loved me..but stopped short. I almost told him I loved him – but stopped short. You just couldn’t say that on a second date, .it was impossible – we were feeling the ‘newness’, right? But I melted nonetheless. I KNEW I loved him by then. I don’t care how crazy it sounds, it was there and it wasn’t going away anytime soon. Thank god I had 8 days left with him.
The next night was much of the same, except we played on the boardwalk a while, then went to a secluded beach in Seaside Park – laying down a blanket and just staring into each other’s eyes in the moonlight, in between major make-out sessions, again. This little romance was turning into an amalgamation of every early Bruce Springsteen song where he falls in love beneath the stars over the boardwalk and carnival lights, with his ‘Sandy’ or “Jersey Girl’, on the beach, in the car, under the boardwalk..wherever, whatever. No it was even worse..
Summer Lovin’, had me a blast
Summer Lovin’ happened so fast
I wiped every trace of that one from my brain and continued to drown in his eyes and lips.
We had to pick up my friend and hunky monkey that night, so we said our real goodbye before we went to get them. He told me he had the following Sunday off, all day and night and he’d love to finally be able to take me out at a reasonable hour. *Any hour with you is more than reasonable – I’d go out with you every night from midnight on, forever, if need be.”
“We could drive down to LBI (Long Beach Island). ..there’s a lot of beautiful beaches there, then go out for an early dinner, maybe see a movie…”
I felt like standing up and jumping up and down like a little kid – not unlike the time when I was 9 and my father surprised me and my sister, telling us we were going to Six Flags Great Adventure the very next day.
I could spend a whole day and evening with him worry free, no sneaking out. I couldn’t wipe the damn, ’15 year old’ goofy smile off of my face as I pictured us doing all kinds of romantic stuff all day and night long. I felt so grown-up, especially since I hadn’t been on many ‘dates’, unless you count pizza after school on a Friday, s a date.
We made our usual plans for the next night – took forever to say goodbye, then drove to pick up the music/movie connoisseurs.
Potato Rosti Napoleon? I just sandwiched three slices of rosti with some extra brie and put it in the oven for a few minutes. A glorious tasting mess!
My friend and I had them drop us off at the corner, not wanting to chance my mother being up and looking out the window. As we walked up the street, I saw my father in the driveway packing up the car. It was 3:30 am! WTF?? It was also a Thursday night, why was he here?? He wasn’t here at midnight when we snuck out!
I ran with all my might right up to him.
“What are you doing here? It’s not the weekend, and why are you packing up the car? That’s one of my suitcases!!”
He ignored me and politely asked my friend to go pack up her stuff. We were leaving because we kept sneaking out and my mother had called him yet again in distress. He got in the car at almost 1 am and made the drive to destroy my life forever.
“BUT WE HAVE 8 DAYS LEFT!! YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE MONEY!” I screamed, trying to sort of reason with him – anything to get him to change his mind.
“I don’t care, enough is enough, you continued to sneak out even when warned, you blew it, not me, not your mother” he said as he continued loading suitcases into the trunk, not once looking at me.
I begged I pleaded, I cried – all to no avail. Then I ran down the street in hopes that Dreamboat and hunky monkey hadn’t gotten that far yet. Maybe they were stuck at a really long red light. I ran as fast I could..stopping and spinning around at points, looking for the navy blue Beetle. I had to tell him, we hadn’t exchanged any of the vital info yet, like last names, phone #’s etc. I could barely catch my breath and my heart was thumping loudly in my ears, I was also shaking like a leaf, rivers of tears streaming down my face. It was all very The Notebook-y and all very over if I didn’t find him.
He was going to think I just up and left him. I was going to shrivel up and die without him. No Sunday, no more of his kisses. I’d probably never see him again.
I sobbed as I walked back to the cottage. Of course, as an adult, I would probably do the same if my teenage daughter was sneaking out every night – with boys, but the 15-year old me felt it was the most awful thing any parent could do to their child.
The best 3 nights of my entire life, and it was over, just like that.
The car ride back home was NOT pleasant, to say the least.
Part Five coming soon!
If you have a few minutes, please check out some of the unique, creative and delicious patties my fellow Daring Cooks came up with, by clicking on the links to their blogs, HERE. For a bounty of recipes for all kinds of patties, from the challenge, click HERE.
Rest in Peace Whitney Houston. The tragic loss of a beautiful woman with the voice of angel.
Potato Rosti with Brie, Bacon and Scallions
Servings: makes two large rosti
Adapted from a family recipe from the Daring Kitchen, with my additions
2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons feshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cornstarch, or use all-purpose flour
1 lb slab bacon without the rind, or thick cut bacon
7 oz wheel of Brie or any other good melting cheese you like. Great with cheddar!
! bunch scallions, sliced, dark ends saved for garnish
3 tablespoons oil, for frying
1. Dice bacon into cubes and fry until fat is rendered and it’s a deep rust color. Strain off bacon grease and save for another use. Set aside on a paper towel in a bowl.
2. Cut white, papery rind off of brie (you can keep it onI prefer it off). Dice into small cubes, or shred, if brie is cold and firm.
3. Slice white and light green parts on the diagonal. Save dark green slices, also sliced on the diagonal, for garnish.
4. Grate the peeled potatoes with a box grater or a food processor shredding disk.5. Wrap the grated potato in a cloth and squeeze dry, you will get a lot of liquid over ½ cup, discard liquid since it is full of potato starch. Return dried potato to bowl add the egg, brie, bacon, scallions, cornstarch, pepper, and salt. Mix until combined.
6. Preheat a frying pan (a well seasoned cast iron is best, 8 to 10-inch) until medium hot, add 2 teaspoons of oil wait until oil shimmers.
7. Place half of mixture into the pan, flatten with a spoon until you get a smooth flat surface. Lower heat to medium.
8. Fry for 8-10 minutes (check at 6 minutes) the first side, flip by sliding the rösti onto a plate then use another plate invert the rösti then slide it back into the pan, then fry the other side about 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Repeat to make another rosti.
Quick and Easy Brown Butter Cinnamon Apple Sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick – 4 tablespoons - 2 oz)
4 large Granny Smith (or any tart apples), apples – peeled, cored and chopped into cubes.
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar, entirely depending on how sweet you like it
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 good pinch kosher salt
1. In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium low heat. Raise the heat to medium and cook the butter until the liquid beneath the milk solids that rise to the top is golden brown.
2. Add the chopped apples to the browned butter and saute until the apples start to soften. Sprinkle on the sugar and let the apples caramelize in the sugar, stirring until the apples are caramelized and soft Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, vanilla bean or extract and kosher salt.
3. Pour the apple mixture into a bowl, scraping out all the caramel goodness left in the pan. Mash with a fork for chunky apple sauce, or give it a whirl in the food processor (or use a blender or stick blender) for a smooth apple sauce. When cool, place in an airtight container in the fridge – it should last about 2 weeks, or serve warm over potato rosti.
Tags: BBQ pork buns, Char Siu Bao, Char Siu Pork, Dough, Green Onions, Hoisin Sauce, Pork, Roast Pork, Soy Sauce
I’m in love with pork buns especially the baked kind. I’ve been known to go out of my way just to stop at Asian bakeries to pick up varieties of their soft lovely buns..and there’s always at least two pork buns in the bag when I leave. There’s one in my town now, and I have to steer clear or else I’ll be buying bags of buns several times a week.
Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles ! Sara chose awesome Cha Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Cha Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!
Hmmm..Cha Sui? I suppose that’s just another term for it? I always thought it was Char Siu, and Char Siu pork and I go way back – well. way back two years ago. I was actually going to recycle that photo of my Char Siu pork into this post, but once I made it again, I decided to get at least one shot to show I actually did make it again. It’s a beautiful thing. Ever pick the pieces of it out of your fried rice to eat individually?
So, I’ve made Char Siu pork before, and Char Siu Bao before – steamed and baked – with great success. I knew this was a challenge I couldn’t miss, not only because I’ve had great success with it, but because pork buns have gone up $1.25 since I last walked out of the local Asian bakery mentioned above.
On a whim, I decided to do something a little different with them this time. I gussied them up a bit with some Chinese characters for Love, Strength, Peace and Harmony. I mixed matcha powder with a little egg yolk, painted on the characters, let them dry, then egg washed and baked after rising. After one bun, I nixed LOVE.
The Chinese character for LOVE has too many lines and details for such a small area. It looked like scribble scrabble, so I let it fly solo. The LOVE is in the buns, baby.
As I painted each character on top of the buns…a memory was tip-toeing - with high-heels – through my brain.
A few years ago, I decided to completely redo the breakfast nook at my parent’s house. Every time I was over there, I could hear the strains of 80′s synthesizers when we sat in that room. It was far past out-of-date – it was Boy George in long braided, mu mu drag, Go Go’s chic, George Michael doing the jitterbug in day-glo, fingerless gloves, out-of-date.
I pulled up every tile of the black and white checkerboard floor, stripped as much of the bright blue paint off the walls (I know, sounds tacky, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t tacky in the 80′s), then sanded off the rest, – sealing cracks and holes with compounds and puttys, (add more sanding) and finally rolling and brushing on two coats of an Arabian sand color I thought was perfect.
I took down two doors, sanding off the burnished, worn stain, then sanding again, staining and a shellac - finishing them off with shiny, bright new doorknobs. It was tough work for one
girl , umm..person..and I still have no idea how I managed it, but within a month, it was completed. I bought a pot rack, hung their pots and pans between the nook and the kitchen, then stood back and admired what I’d done. Trading Spaces? Pffft. Eat your heart out.
Hmmm…it needed art, a few paintings. Maybe one by me to sort of ‘sign’ my work on the room, if you know what I mean.
I found a bunch of old acrylic paints and brushes in their basement (Yes, I used to draw and paint a bit – well, a lot), but no canvas, and it was too late to go out and get one. I walked around the house looking for something – anything..I needed to paint at that moment. I needed to put my final seal on the room before reveal day.
Out of the corner of my eye, there it sat, one of those vertical, ’three in a row’ mallard prints that nobody, outside of He-Man hunter living in a log cabin, puts up on display (or so I thought). I pried open the wires holding everything together since I planned on using the back of this canvas for my painting. I was confused as to why there were so many layers to get to the canvas, and why was this cheap print numbered and signed? Is someone proud of painted mallards on a canvas set in ugly dark green cardboard frames?
I finally got to the back of the canvas, pulled it out, and started painting a kaleidoscope of colors to fit in, but ‘pop’ in the room. I had already decided I was going to paint the black chinese characters for Love, Health and Happiness on top of these colors, because they’re so beautiful. After hiding it to dry for several hours, I came back and painstakingly painted on each character – using some computer print-outs as a reference. It turned out beautiful, and once it was fully dry, I put it back into the frame, minus the dark green cardboard cut-outs.
I hung it in the perfect place and beamed at my resourcefulness. Turning a cheap, factory made mallard painting into something beautiful! I couldn’t wait for them to see!
They loved it – I was thrilled. They also loved my painting. After several compliments, my father asked..
“Where did you get the frame for it? I was given a numbered, signed painting by (insert name of famous mallard artist who’s name escapes me at this moment – Update: I know who it is now but absolutely refuse to name him in fear he will see this post via Google and read how I completely annihilated his work thinking it was cheap, worthless and ugly) a few weeks ago as a gift for the holidays, in a frame very similar to that..it’s very expensive.”
I felt faint.
He saw my eyes, his face changed.
“You didn’t take that painting out of the frame, did you? If you did, show me where everything is so we can put it all back together, we’ll get another nice frame for your painting, ok?”
Now I’m going to throw up.
He saw my face turn a light shade of green. He knew.
I’m not going to get into details outside of some yelling and “Do you have any idea how much that painting is worth now and will be worth in several years??” “Do you have any idea how rare it is? Only 5 exist!” type of stuff.
To this day, my painting sits in a box in my parent’s basement, never hung again. He didn’t need to be reminded of it during his morning coffee, for the rest of his life. I totally agree.
OK..back to the pork buns! This was a good recipe, the dough was wonderful to work with. However, I made a few small changes. When I saw the recipe for the pork filling, I didn’t think there would be enough sauce to really moisten the pork, so I doubled it. Turns out I was right, as some mentioned the pork filling being dry after it was baked and/or steamed.
Second change..I wanted a lot of filling per bun, like the ones I get at my local bakery, so I made 9 buns instead of 12..no 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon amount here..just what I call a ‘heap’ aka whatever I can fit onto the dough round and seal without leaking or tearing.
Third change – I let the buns rise for an hour before baking. This recipe eliminated a rise, for a thinner shell of bread. I like a little bready fluff around my pork filling. I also baked them at 350 F for 15 minutes, instead of 200 F for 15 minutes.
Finally, I sprinkled the top of the buns without the characters with a little bit of Maldon flake sea salt.
I’m also submitting these to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.
Tags: Baking with Julia, Candied Bacon, Chocolate, Croissants, Esther McManus, Julia Child, Pain au Chocolat, Pepper Jack Cheese, Pistachio, Sea Salt, white chocolate
The croissant has evolved…into a crescent roll. Let me explain. From the time I was in college until about 10 years ago, croissants were flaky, layered, buttery rolls of heaven. No matter where I bought them, they were all of the above, even the supermarket bakeries. I remember stopping at some a few mornings a week before work, and opening the plexiglass case, crumpled tissue in hand like a baseball mitt, ready to grab the freshest ones before anyone else could. Even the BK ‘croissandwich’ was flaky, with buttery layers!
Then something happened..and I don’t know if some of these places got tired of making them the right way, and/or they decided to skimp on the butter, (cutting costs was obvious) because outside of the fancy patisseries, the croissants I was buying were slowly morphing into crescent rolls. Limp crusts, no flake, and ‘gasp’ soft white bread like innards with maybe two layers, if you were lucky. These were not the croissants that used to flake all over my lap with each bite. These were not the croissants I could eat layer by layer, slowly unrolling, unraveling, deconstructing – holding thin, buttery, window panes of baked dough up to the light, trying to make it last as long as possible.
I finally bid a sad adieu to any croissants made outside french patisseries. I wasn’t being a food snob, I just didn’t feel like paying 2 bucks for a crescent roll when I could easily whip up a batch of those with lots of butter, right?
Then this day came..
The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!
I was jubilant and a tad nervous at the same time. I had always wanted to recreate those awesome croissants of yore at home, but kept putting it off. Now I had a reason to. However, what if I turned out doughy, crescent rolls? I do very well with puff pastry, so how hard could it be? Same method as puff pastry, but using a yeasted dough. Piece of cake! Ha ha..NOT.
Stretching the triangle of dough to about 8-10 inches, then placing a ball of scrap dough in the middle of the wide end before rolling, gives you a fatter, multi-layered, higher croissant.
I decided to use the recipe from the challenge to make plain, rolled croissants, and a recipe by Esther McManus from my copy of Baking with Julia (one of my favorite baking books ever) I’d been planning on trying for some time, for some pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants) and other filled croissants. I even have this episode of Baking with Julia saved on my DVR, and I think I’ve watched it about 2 dozen times since this challenge was announced, not counting the two dozen times I’d watched it before.
This is why I couldn’t stop talking like her as I made the dough – ‘You make zee butter sit here and start beating from zee middle, kindly, but firmly.’ I wasn’t kind, and this is probably why I ended up with gaping holes of butter in my dough during my turns. Sheeet, what to do?
Let’s backtrack a bit. Esther Mcmanus’ dough contains a lot of butter. OK, that’s an understatement – try 1 lb 2 ounces of butter. Ummmmmm..alright, maybe I shouldn’t have pounded it so hard to flatten the mountain of ice-cold butter. No neat square in this recipe, just a big lump that you pound into the dough. Then again, since I was already taking my aggressions out on this dough, I forced it to roll further than it was ready to go. Esther says in the episode..
I’m not going to go any further than dees, cuz I feel it doesn’t want me to’ after the first vertical roll of the butter into the dough.
I’m the boss, and I want to get the first turn out of the way, so I don’t care what it wants or doesn’t want. I don’t want to wait 2 hours for a first turn. I knew I was screwing up, but my dough was so strong, I thought the gluten could take a little beating. I let it sit for 15 minutes, then started to roll. All went beautifully. I folded it (like a letter, of course), wrapped it, stuck it in the fridge and went about my day, deciding to let the dough rest overnight to recuperate.
ROUND, errr..Turn Two. This is when all
hell, butter broke loose. This was supposed to be a single and double turn at once, and then after another overnight rest, it would be ready for croissants! As I rolled away to get it to the proper length and width for the second turn, I started to run into little bits of butter oozing here and there. I’d patch these minor caveats up with flour and continue rolling.
As I kept lifting the dough after several rolls, adding flour beneath to keep it from sticking, I noticed butter on the marble slab. Those tiny, little nuisances were now turning into gaping holes of Paula Deen. With every crater of butter in my dough, I heard a ‘Hi Y’all!’. I was up the creek without a paddle, I had completely ruined this dough. Again, Esther’s voice echoed through my head…
If you tear eet, eeet’s no good - or something to that effect. Little holes were fine, according to Esther, but torn, gaping holes, were death. OH.NO. There was no way I was wasting 1 lb 2 ounces of Plugra. I had to think quick. I folded up my half turned mess of dough, wrapped it tight in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge, which was going to become it’s new home for a few days, because that’s how long it took me to come up with a solution.
Julia to the rescue! I decided to make Julia’s dough from the challenge recipe, no longer for plain croissants, but to save my bruised, battered and buttered dough. I was basically starting over.., my block of butter (beurrage) now a block of butter in dough, which in turn was wrapped in another dough, then all the turns all over again. To my delight, it worked. I had a beautiful, silky dough with not one peep from Paula. One small problem, though. The original butter battered dough had now sat for a little over a week in the fridge. The yeast had certainly weakened considerably, and the amount of yeast in Julia’s dough would not be enough to carry the load.
I formed the croissants, egg-washed them, and sprinkled them with some sea salt (I read it makes a really pretty bubbly effect on the flaky crust). I knew deep down I wasn’t going to get much oven spring, and I didn’t..but they were cute and tasty, albeit too dense. How can anything with all that butter not taste good, regardless of the texture? These are them below. ’Feh’ comes to mind every time I look at this photo.
I wasn’t satisfied, I wanted those big, flaky croissants I loved so much. I made another batch of Esther’s dough, this time using only 3 sticks of butter. As you can see, success. Beautiful, big, flaky seven rolled croissants, (See photo collage of croissant rolling, above - I numbered a rolled croissant to show you what I mean). Tight rolls of each 8-10 inch pulled and stretched triangle gets you 7 ‘sections’ which equals more layers and prettier croissants.
WAIT, this has all got to sound so confusing, and my collages certainly aren’t clear and easy to understand. You can see the full episode of Esther’s croissant making, with the lovely and wonderful Julia, HERE (part one) and HERE (part two). You can also see a full episode of vintage Julia making croissants, HERE.
So, here’s what I made;
- Accidental mini sea salt croissants
- Plain, rolled, croissants, although I didn’t pull the ends long enough to curve them into a classic croissant shape.
- Plain pain au chocolat
- White and dark pain au chocolat
- White chocolate – pistachio and Dark chocolate pistachio croissants (I used the almond filling recipe provided by Esther in Baking with Julia, substituting pistachios for the almonds)
- Candied bacon - Pepper Jack cheese croissants.
Candied bacon – pepper jack?? Yes, and they were amazing. Remember a while back when I told you about being a member of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program? They sent me and others a $25.00 gift card to purchase a variety of Sargento cheeses, American processed cheese singles, and any other fruits, crackers and whatnot to host a ‘tasting’, comparing Sargento cheeses, such as Havarti, Provolone, and the aforementioned Pepper Jack etc..to processed American cheese singles.
Umm..are you kidding? It’s a no brainer – of course Sargento won out. I keep American cheese singles on hand for one purpose only – childhood comfort grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. I paired several of Sargento’s cheeses (they come in sticks…perfect for croissants, like the chocolate batons shown above) with candied bacon, deciding pepper jack was a phenomenal match. And there you have it..candied bacon – pepper jack croissants!
Loved this challenge, loved how my croissants turned out (especially the second batch), but I think it’s going to be a while before I make croissants again. I’m still wiping the flour off my face, the frustration off my frontal lobes, and the butter from my arteries.