Posts tagged ‘Closest-Dweller’s Reign’

August 25, 2011

Departure of the Closet Dweller (and canning tomatoes)

At last the sad day has come (and gone by now) and our dear closet dweller has moved out of her garret.  Not only that, but she has left the state entirely and moved on to more populace places.  We miss her every night.

And we manically fill the time with projects.  In the past seven days since her leaving, we have re-organized the kitchen, re-arranged the living room, re-categorized our books, moved various pieces of furniture, conquered the long-standing Box Mountain from when we moved here a year ago, and most importantly, canned lots of tomatoes.  I think it’s fair to say that the canning has been a welcome distraction from the odd quietness at the edges of our little apartment.  When three people share a three-room apartment for this long, it takes some adjusting to get used to the space being used by only two.  In addition we’ve been working on our winter’s frozen food supply over the last week:  we now have cilantro, peppers, and parsley put away for the winter as well as the tomato extravaganza, which is mostly what I’m here to talk about.  Well that and a goodbye to the Closet Dweller.

What you need:

Lots of clean bowls and counter-tops
White vinegar
Lots and lots of tomato seconds, or nice tomatoes if you want to spring for them
Clean mason jars
New lids with bands.  Canning lids can seal only once, so make sure they are new.
1 pair of canning tongs
1 wide-mouth funnel.  It really is worth it.
A pot large enough to cover your jars in at least 1-2 inches of water without spilling over and putting out your pilot light. (In fact, a water bath canner is really probably worth it.  It costs about $25 and comes with a rack to hold the jars).

It’s important to stay really clean about everything.  Work with a clean kitchen, wash everything very well before using it, and wash your hands often.

The whole processes goes like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Bring home a huge box of tomato seconds from the farm.

2. Spend a day or two cleaning and chopping and sorting.  Cut off any parts that seem even slightly suspect.

3. Cook the tomatoes for 1-5 hours depending on how many pieces of furniture you are moving at the same time.  You want the volume to reduce somewhat, or a lot.  Cooking the tomatoes for about 3 hours, you get a ration sort of like this: for every two cups of fresh tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups canned.

4. Wash mason jars, lids, and  bands in hot soapy water.  Set aside for sterilizing.  Also wash your wide mouth funnel and tongs and any other tools you might find yourself using.  If you have hotdog tongs (which we don’t) they are very helpful, wash them too.

5. Fill the canning pot with water and put on high heat to boil.  Once the water is boiling, lower the clean and empty jars, lids, and bands into the water, cover, and boil for 10 minutes.  This is the sterilize them.  You can also boil your funnel, canning tongs, and hotdog tongs.

6. Meanwhile, turn the heat up on your tomatoes so they are close to a boil.

7. After the jars have been sterilized, lift one of them out of the water, pouring out the water from the inside.

8. Use the wide mouth funnel to fill the jar, leaving 1 inch of headroom.  Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar per pint jar to raise the acidity and help preserve it..

9.  Carefully wipe the rim and threads of the jar so there is no tomato outside the jar at all.  Now go back to you pot of boiling water with jars, lids, and bands.  Lift out a lid and carefully place it on top of the jar.  Get a band and screw it on, again, carefully.  You don’t need to tighten too much, but you don’t want it to be loose.

10. Repeat this process until you have as many jars full of tomato as you can fit in your canner at a time.  Using the tongs, lower the jars back into the boiling water, again, making sure that the water covers them by 1-2 inches.

11. Bring the pot back to a boil with all the jars in it.  Boil the jars for 10 minutes, starting after the pot has reached a full boil.

12.  When the ten minutes of boiling are up, lift the jars one by one from the canner, being sure not to tilt them to on their sides.  Set them down and listen carefully for the pops of the lids sealing.  A jar is only safe if the lid pops.

Keep the jars out of light.  Store in the dark emptiness of where your Closet Dweller used to live (or in a cabinet).

Advertisements
April 20, 2011

Veggies and What A Closet-Dweller Did With Them

When it’s a thundery April night and one is suffering the effects of over-indulgence, be it chemical or emotional, there’s only one way to woman up and fly right. (And I dare you to listen to this song, sober or otherwise, and not end up feeling like you’ve overdone it)

So, now that you’re suffused in the light glow of melancholy, here’s what to do: eat a bowl of virtue. Specifically, eat a huge bowl of kale. “But closet-dweller!” I can hear you say, your voice small and muffled by ions and tubes and pictures of cats (that’s what the internet is made of, right?)

“I thought you were one of us! The great unwashed and unrighteous legions of lazy vegetarians who eat kale with a sense of dull, anhedonic, puritan purpose, much like a tethered cow sullenly chewing its cud!”

And I say to you, fear not. For I have tried kale anew. I have doused it in warm olive oil and balsamic and garlic. And lo, it is good. It also tastes extra tasty cause I got the idea from a farmer at the farmer’s market, where I went and handed over money for vegetables and did not even cry, not even once, not even alone in the parking lot.

So, do what I did, and chop all this stuff that’s in the conveniently placed photograph up (not the kale, wash that and put it in a bowl. And really wash it if you give the farmer’s market your custom, or you could inadvertently eat some bugs you’ve just killed in hot oil and have to turn your back on your whole way of life). Put it all in a pan except the kale, with lots of oil, more than is appropriate. Put salt and pepper in there, and a splash or two of balsamic. Then, when everything is soft and fragrant and smelling of righteousness and vitamins, pour it over the raw kale, and let it sit while you check your email or pick the lint out of your bellybutton (or both, who am I to limit you?) Then eat that beautiful big bowl of greens, and you’ll feel a little better.

Righteous Ingredients

Bowl of Virtue

And if you don’t, heat up a big bowl of pasta and cheese and go to town. I won’t tell.

April 15, 2011

Closet-Dwelling, Egg Sandwiches, and You

I have a few controversial opinions, and this is one:  I like my egg sandwiches like I like my men: Cheese, Stress, and Accessory free.

This is awesome.

My basic philosophy behind the egg sandwich is as follows: Of course you can dress it up.  Put cheese on there, avocado, tomato, bacon if you can stand the guilt, fancy lettuce, mushrooms. Go all Richard Gere dressing up Julia Roberts on that sandwich. It’s going to be delicious. But it’s not what I think of when I think about egg sandwiches. (Insert your own “what we talk about when we talk about blank” Raymond Carver bullshit here. Seriously when are people going to stop doing that? Am I the only one who notices this?)

This is bullshit.

But in the same way that I find Julia Roberts more fun and appealing as a prostitute than as a rich prostitute, an egg sandwich can be even tastier when left alone. An egg sandwich is about having no money and no patience and no creativity. You can make one when you wake up in the afternoon starving and the fridge is almost empty. Or right before you go to a party where you’re scared there won’t be any food you want to eat. Or when you come home drunk from a party and need to put food in your stomach immediately and are too poor for the all-night diner and too dignified to just eat uncooked bread. If you have friends and do things like go to parties and don’t live in a closet in small-town New York, that is. The upside of which is I can eat an egg sandwich literally any time, because I am always home.

The Julia-on-Sunset egg sandwich is the opposite of fancy, the opposite of carefully arranged gruyere and goat cheese and extraneous vegetables getting between me and hot egg yolk that has just sizzled in butter being in my mouth. Save the drama for your mama, put a fried egg on a hot piece of bread, salt and pepper, take a moment to gaze in wonder at the beautiful golden drippiness, and then shovel it into your mouth. And then you should probably eat another one, too. Here is a picture of what I mean. It is not a good picture, because I don’t have a nice phone or steady hands.

With all this said, if you want to put more shit on there, I’m certainly not going to stop you. This is America. You can put whatever you want on your sandwich. If you can put an undead baby bird on it, then you can put some cheese on it too, let’s be real.

Tomorrow I brave the small-talk wasteland of the farmer’s market.  (Sample dialogue: Nice Farmer: “Hi!” Pause as he or she tries to place where they know me from, namely me hovering behind my roommates while they “normally interact” every weekend. “Where are the non-closet-dwellers?” Me: “Oh! (Exclamation because I am relieved I know the right answer) They’re in England…” Pause as I try to remember their name, almost say it, then as I am saying it I decide that’s not the right name, which results in a winded snort-giggle.  NF: “That’s amazing! What are they doing there?” Me: “Oh, like, stuff. Your basic England stuff.”  Long pause while we smile at each other. Longer pause while I shove some potatoes onto their scale, drop some on the floor, and then crawl on the floor to retrieve them, escaping from this suburban hell-scape only after becoming so verklempt I  forget how to count money and the farmer finally takes what they need out of my hand, giving me a pitying head shake, as if to say, “Now I understand why your role is to hold the bags and smile into the middle distance”)

Oh well. For this, and many situations, I listen to this song. If you’re going to have cheeseless opinions about breakfast foods, if you’re going to live in a closet, if you’re going to drop the entire bag of beer bottles you’re bringing to the grocery store so that they roll all over the lawn and street, glinting in the sun and clinking merrily to broadcast your alcohol consumption to the neighborhood, if you’re going to be dumb, in other words, you gotta be tough.

April 13, 2011

In Which The Closet-Dweller Goes It Alone

A door creaks open in a central New York Apartment on a blustery April day. A trembling, blinking creature emerges from the dark recesses within, moving slowly into the harsh afternoon light, a la The Beast of Disney fame. Who is this pale and disheveled form, you ask, wearing a bewitching mix of leggings and marinara-stained t-shirt with mismatched socks, inquiring of the cat as to the time?

It is I, the closet-dweller. I, who revels in the dark embrace of the closet by day and gazes, hypnotized, at glowing screens by night. I, who wrangles toddlers and recycles all those beer bottles whose labels I have not torn off in a frenzy of unused energy. I, who provides almost no monetary but much comedic support to my steadfast and lovely roommates. And where, you might ask, are these providers of vegetable knowledge, givers of gentle prodding into the warmth of the kitchen? Whither, they not of the closet?

My fellow denizens of small-town America have fled to England, leaving me to face alone the yawning cupboards empty of onions and greens and the anxiety-producing prospect of a solo farmer’s market. But I will not quaver! For they have also left me to indulge pleasant pastimes: Washing the dishes in one’s underwear whilst belting hits of the lovesick-country variety. Feeling no compunction about eating ice cream for breakfast. Talking to the cat freely in his natural tongue.

So I will press on, knowing as I do the shadowy contours of the apartment, the insomniac secrets of its culinary abundance. Join me, on this journey of discovery and peril, of fear and opportunity, as I leave the closet and prepare to fend for myself.

Tonight’s adventure involves pasta, mushrooms, butter, three-buck chuck, and the musical stylings of Ms. Dolly Parton. Let’s begin:

You might want to start by tying a red ribbon around your ponytail and clearing away some dishes, while listening to this song.

Ponder the contents of your fridge while you do so, and the big questions, such as, why exactly is food at the bottom of the drain so much less appealing than food on a plate? What does the mime in Dolly’s video symbolize? Where can I find those suspenders she’s wearing?

Congratulations. You have earned your first glass of wine. This can be consumed while cutting up some garlic and if you’re me, your second-to-last shallot. Chopping can be soothing but also boring, so you should listen to this awesome song. I give you my full permission to dance around singing the chorus into a wooden spoon, as I know you want to. Go on. If you can’t be undignified and cliche in front of your cat, you’re depriving an animal of the chance to harshly judge your melodramatics, and what kind of responsible pet owner would do that? Think of the animals!

If twangy, confusing, and unrequited love is not your thing (and if not, why not?) this is also a good opportunity to call someone you love but who lingers on the phone, as one: you have wine, and two: you can say, “I would love to talk some more, but I have to put these shallots and garlic onto the stove in a frying pan with a shitload of butter and salt and pepper. Goodnight!” (See what I did there? Subtle recipe instructions!)

Now, on to the improvisation portion of the meal. While the shallots and garlic are making sweet love to all that butter, fill a pot with water and set out the pasta of your choice. (I find it satisfying to methodically rip off the top of the box, but to each her own.) Cut up a hefty portion of portobello mushrooms. Throw those in with the other stuff. Here is where my night got tricky. I decided to be bold and go for a creamy sauce even though I had no cream. You could also take this recipe in the direction of the tomato-y balsamic if you have access to such things. What I did is perhaps unconventional, but turned out, well, let’s be honest, pretty ok: tear up some cheddar cheese (white, extra sharp, just like yours truly, heyo) and pour in the heaviest liquid dairy you posses, but not sour cream or yogurt, obviously. You want to keep the liquid in proportion with how much you chopped and how much pasta you’re making. With that in mind: pour a little bit of the wine from your glass into the pan but much more into your mouth. I also put some vegetable stock in there, cause it was in the fridge, and my mushrooms were a little withered and I thought it would perk them up. And yes, I realize this recipe is just to put a little of all your dairy products over pasta and mushrooms and eat it, but sue me. I’ve been living in a closet for six months.

I know you’re as smart as you are pretty, so you’ve remembered to cook and drain your pasta during all the above innovative saucing. Mix all the stuff you’ve cooked together and put a bunch of stuff on it: salt, pepper,  more cheese. And pour another glass of wine. You deserve it.  And let me know how it turned out. For me, it was sort of weird, but I liked it. That’s what she said. Closet-dweller out!

 

Stuff On Pasta, With Cat

I took a shitty picture with my phone. You can just see the cat and the beer bottles in the background.