Like many of you Claudia and I have pets. Our housemates are cats and they pay their way. Allow me to expand on that statement. Rico and Jack are not circus performers, neither has a subscription web page or Facebook account, yet when we walk in the door and see that wide eyed “where have you been for so long” expression, it is enough for us to forgive their share of the utility bill.
The bonds that we have with our dogs, cats, birds or other mammals (not sure if you can bond with a reptile) is at times as strong as with a dear friend or family member. In the many decades that Claud and I have been together there has always been at least one other soul in the house. We have enjoyed their company in the years that we shared together, rolled our eyes at the bill from the grocery for food, nursed them when they were ill and said goodbye tearfully when we were forced to end their pain.
Our neighborhood is pet friendly and our street seems to be a preferred boulevard for companions and their dogs to take a “passeggiata.” Watching the constant parade, I have become familiar with the human and canine pairs. I also enjoy the fashion show on cold winter days or during a rain. Some of the creatures look in a better mood in the colorful raincoats and booties as opposed to the cold and wet losers of the marriage coin toss who are trudging along under umbrellas or pulled-up hoods, conspicuously carrying a small plastic bag away from their bodies. Full disclosure here, I have been witnessed walking our cat around our yard. He stays close to me and does not wander far out of sight of the open front door. Rico, however, is not a slave to fashion and prefers to prance au natural.
The days I drove to Republic in the early mornings I would often see a large bright orange cat on a porch on North Street. He would lie on the railing and survey what he obviously believes is his domain. Each morning when I paused at the stop sign, his green eyes found mine and made me feel as if I owed a toll. Belmont Street has its own mascot in Big Louie. BL is stunning. He is a lionlike Persian with long silver and white hair, bright blue eyes and walks with a proud swagger. The cat cruises with proprietary slowness across all of our contiguous backyards yet has a particular nose for Claudia’s wild catnip (Meowee-Wowee) when on summer days he takes his mid-morning nap.
When I was still planted in the basement of Republic I would see one of our neighbors walking her large white dog around the same time each morning as I was leaving. I saw them for years no matter the weather and admired their New England toughness. As the years went on I would notice the dog moving slower and as time went on instead of walking side by side, the dog would trail behind her. When I did not see them for a few weeks I wondered how they were doing. One day as I was pulling from the driveway I saw her walking alone with a folded leash in her hand, I shut off the engine and watched her walk to the end of the street. She walked at the same pace as always and when she arrived at the corner stop sign, she stopped and looked down at the leash. I saw her shoulder sag and my heart broke. When I arrived at Republic the image was so strong I could not shake it from my minds eye. It stays with me to this day. Many of us have lost a pet companion and their absence is as a physical pain.
As I am wring this I look over from my office /closet at Jack lying regally on our bed with his enormous six-toed paws outstretched. He will be around a while but Rico, who has a better personality and more common sense than the majority of our elected officials is pushing 17. We will continue to enjoy his company, laugh at his antics and at times cringe at his misbehavior for a while longer. I am not a radical animal rights advocate but I am human. When a person or a pet shows me unconditional love, I will reciprocate. I will love them when they are near and miss them when they are not but, be they a person or pet, I am better off for knowing them.
STUFFED ROASTED POBLANO PEPPER ( Wednesday refrigerator-freezer dinner )
Ok, home chefs, this is not hard but it will take some focus. All have seen the movie PULP FICTION. The diner scene with Samual Jackson and John Travolta where Jackson’s character says, “My girlfriend is a vegetarian so therefore I am a vegetarian.” Well, Claudia is a vegetarian. (She will eat fish, but with reservations) so I am required to have a keen focus on making dishes other than steamed broccoli over dry pasta. Plan this out and it will become a “Go-To” as it can be the vehicle for the day you are in a pinch and need to use the sides stored in those plastic containers in the fridge. I guarantee it will get you the standing O from the Familia.
INGREDIENTS (FOR 4)
- 4 good size Poblano peppers
- 2 eggs ( whites only, save the yokes for breakfast)
- 1 cup yesterday’s rice, pre-made polenta, cornbread or yesterday’s mashed potatoes, the key being to use what ever you have already made as a binder
- 1 diced onion
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 diced chili pepper ( you choose the heat )
- 1/4 cup diced celery ( or fennel, this is an elastic recipe )
- 1/4 cup diced zucchini
- 1/4 cup cheese ( feta-or mozzarella )
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup oil to sauté
- 3 tablespoons white wine or sherry, (what ever you are drinking at the time, this is after all Wednesday)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
ROASTED POBLANO PEPPER
Grill the peppers on your outside BBQ or lay them over the gas or electric burner in the kitchen, or place them under the stoves top broiler. Either way it will only take 3-4 minutes a side as this pepper blisters very fast so don’t leave the room. Once the peppers char, place them in a covered bowl until they cool.
In a preheated pan add 3 tablespoons oil then the vegetables, Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes then turn the heat up and add the wine. When the wine evaporates remove from the burner and set side.
When the peppers are cool remove the charred skin: Chef’s tip: Do not run under water as it will take away the charred taste. Drag a serrated knife slowly up and down the pepper to remove the blacked skin as this is my tool of choice. Try not to cut the stem
In a large bowl add the vegetables, binder, cheese ,herbs and mix aggressively. Laying the pepper on it’s side cut a vertical slit 1/2 way down one side. (be gentle)
Spoon the vegetable and binder mixture into the opening and when filled, pinch the sides closed. If they do not completely meet its not an issue. Set aside. The hard part is done.
Now, after taking a sip of what ever is in your glass, take a hand whisk (or that expensive electric beater you never use) and beat the egg whites to a stiff peak. If this is terrifying there are 1000 U- Tube instruction videos out there. You are 90% there.
Pre heat your oven to 375°
Preheat a sauce pan (cast iron is always preferred ) then add the rest of the oil
With your clean hands roll each pepper first in the flour than in the egg whites. When most of the pepper is covered lay gently in the hot oil. When the egg is cooked on one side gently turn and cook the other side. Remove from the heat and set aside, then repeat with each pepper. When each pepper is coated, place on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese melts.
I have given a good amount of direction for what in the end is a simple recipe. The second time you do this you will have it down to 25 minutes max. Since this a refrigerator recipe pullout that pasta sauce you have in the back of the freezer. The browned egg white and deep green of the pepper along with at amazing sauce you made last month will for sure get you the eternal love of your family.