Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WELCOME THE STRANGER

If you are listening at Mass and not scrolling through messages on your iPhone, you will eventually hear about welcoming the stranger during Old Testament readings. Deuteronomy reminds us that "You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19) Therefore, we are to extend to others the welcome we once received in a new land.

As we have seen, the current administration seems to have no connection to either the Old Testament or the New. "Welcoming the stranger" has been changed to--"Expel anyone who does not look like us." (Meaning, with brown skin.) Or, "Forbid anyone to enter this country who has a different religion." (Meaning, Muslims.)  It is beyond belief and deeply saddening that a country which was built on the skill and talent of immigrants should be closing its doors. But let me share a small, cheerful story in the midst of this chaos and worry.

Yesterday's Writers' Meeting was held at my house, high on the windy hill with clouds scudding by the windows and finally, sun appearing as we sipped tea, talked, and shared our writing news and manuscripts. My husband had wisely taken himself off to a nearby upscale coffee house with WiFi access, but as soon as he walked in, he saw it was crowded and noisy. As a man with ADD, noise short-circuits any kind of focus or work.

Driving into Northampton, he seated himself inside McDonald's, where all kinds of folks make themselves at home for a time. Nearby a man talked to himself, not into a phone, carrying on a solo conversation. At another table, a mother and father spoke European Spanish to their little girl, who responded in perfect Castilian Spanish. "The diction was so clear," Rick said, "I could understand most everything."

A few other folks looked as if they had either been sleeping rough or bunking at a homeless shelter in town. All of their belongings were stuffed into plastic bags at their feet, and they nursed a cup of coffee and sometimes a donut to pass the time.

As Rick recounted this, I thought--this is the way to welcome the stranger. Come on in. Sit yourself down. Have some hot coffee and maybe a donut. Put your belongings by your feet, and no one will ask you to leave.  If you are starring in a narrative within your head, that's fine, as long as you don't scare the customers. No one will bar you from entering due to skin color, religion, shapeless bundles, or mumbled words. Come on DOWN, my sister, my brother!

We have come to a pretty pass when McDonald's exemplifies biblical values far more than our government. I think we should invite The Donald to visit the fast food place, seat him with some coffee and fries and say, "Look around, honey. Open your heart to the stranger."

I wish. I suspect the only way I am going to survive the next 4 years with sanity intact is by remembering that The Donald's story is not God's story, and @realDonald will not have the last word. Or, as God so mercifully told me when I was in despair over the election, "My story is bigger than this story."

Keep the faith: remember that grace is God's breath; do whatever you need to do to resist, work for change, help the marginalized, the immigrant, the refugee, and know--this is not forever. Even if it feels like that sometimes.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

CATHOLIC BROAD COOKS--2

SIMPLE MADE HARD

Could be the title for this blog piece. Honestly. I am a danger to myself. Here I am on a damn cold and windy day, wondering what house project to tackle, or perhaps, an old novel that could be taken out and dusted off. Making comments in the margins counts as writing, right?

But, no, the lure of the kitchen sucked me in. As usual. I got out my Weight Watchers cookbook to see if they had a decent recipe for tuna casserole. Side note: My husband and I have been cooking ridiculously complicated and often undigestible meals (for me, at any rate) from--Blue Apron, then Plated, and soon to be given a try--GreenChef, vegetarian. Because of this spate of fancy-dancy, elite cooking (Trump would hate it), I couldn't just make a simple tuna casserole.  

If you've ever done Blue Apron, you know that any recipe will use every single bowl in the household, every utensil, each chopping board, and at least 4 pans. So--I got out two cans of albacore tuna, assessing how seriously dead the meat looked inside and thinking I really should never, ever buy this stuff again which is ravaging our oceans. Then, laden with guilt and staggering slightly I found some egg noodles which had only expired 2 years ago, set the kettle to boil, and got ready to make noodles.

Meanwhile, I looked at the WW recipe, which was rather loathsome as they were using frozen peas, frozen corn, and a can of mushroom soup (mushroom soup! Are you kidding???) and more. I couldn't do it. My gourmet heart would shrivel to the size of a walnut. I remembered I had some fennel stalks in the fridge, from when I made the Mediterranean Shrimp recipe, and I got those out and chopped them into smallish pieces. As the noodles were boiling, I cooked for 5 minutes some chopped fresh carrots to use in the vegetable layer of the casserole which I was rapidly inventing. I also toasted 2 slices of my home made sourdough wheat bread to use for breadcrumbs later on.

Vegetable Layer: swoosh a tad of butter, a splash of olive oil, turn on the heat, and WE'RE OFF, sauteing onion and garlic, fennel, later adding the carrots for 10-15 min., and giving all a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end, along with a handful of fresh spinach for kicks.

Sauce: melt 2 tablespoons in a medium size saucepan; heat to boiling point almost 2 cups of 2% milk in microwave. When butter is melted, stir in 2 heaping tablespoons of white flour--stir--then add heated milk, whisking steadily until thick. 

Spices: Add about 2 tsp. of za'atar (I can't help it, it's my favorite new spice), a pinch of curry, and mix. Put in handful of fresh, chopped parsley and delicately sprinkle a small amount of "Chrystal Louisiana Hot Sauce" into the mix.  Turn off heat. All burners are turned off now as I drain the cooked noodles. Then I took my home made toasted sourdough wheat bread and grated it into small crumbs against a box grater, trying to avoid shredding the blue plastic gloves I am wearing, to protect my recent manicure with "Bodega something." By now I can feel sweat beginning to accumulate above my eyes, and I think my nose is about to run. Perhaps I am allergic to complicated recipes?

Assemble: spray Pam on inside of 4-quart casserole: spread layer of noodles on bottom. Top with half of cooked veggie mixture; then half of tuna, and pour half of sauce on top. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a bit of cheese. Next layer do the same, topping it all with more breadcrumbs and cheese. Cook in 350 degree oven for at least 1/2 hour, while you stagger to the couch, drink cold tea from this morning, and groan softly. Really, I needed to make it so damn complicated? Bet it will be good, though. I'm ready for comfort food. And clearly I have no spoons left to drive through windy, freezing weather to go to Mass. Sorry, God. Out of spoons.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

CATHOLIC BROAD COOKS

In my old blog, which was fancier and niftier, I had a place where I could post recipes 'cause I am such a devoted, at times frenetic cook. (Ask my husband. He will tell you the warp speed I achieve in sneakers in the kitchen while cooking.)

Ever since posting a picture on FB and Instagram (what? I have no life?) of the "One-Pan Dinner--Mediterranean Shrimp" (from "Cook's Country issue, Dec./Jan. 2017), a number of folks have asked for this recipe. Since it takes too many spoons (reference spoon theory at www.butyoudontlooksick.com) to type it up and email it, I had the brilliant, perhaps even sacred idea of posting it on my blog. For all to see. If I'm lucky, I might even manage to post the picture of the dish as it was completed. 

INGREDIENTS:
--2 lbs. fresh jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed & defrosted if frozen. (They prefer natural shrimp, no sodium or preservatives.)
--1,1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick. (This is about 3 cups, and you can use red organic, unpeeled.)
--1 Fennel bulb, stalks discarded, cut into 1/2" thick wedges thru stem end by 2" long.  
--3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, & extra for drizzling.
--salt & pepper
--2 tsp. dried oregano
--1 tsp. grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving. (I use 2 whole organic lemons & grate them for more flavor.)
--1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
--1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
--2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.

PREPARATION: AT LEAST 45 MIN. TOTAL (I prep all veggies first, bag them up, and put in pan in fridge; same with shrimp--defrosted & tails cut off.)

1/ Put oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes, fennel, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in large bowl. Spread vegetables evenly in single layer in baking pan and roast about 25 minutes, until tender. I tucked 9-10 lemon slices in between veggies for flavor. (I poke potatoes with fork to test for doneness.)

2/ Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Toss shrimp in bowl with oregano, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.(I usually omit both pepper and salt, as feta is salty.)

3/ Remove roasting veggies from oven and flip them with spatula so browned sides face up. Spread shrimp & feta over the top. Return to oven and roast until shrimp are cooked, about 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle olives & parsley over top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges.
Serves 4-6, probably will have left-overs.

This goes well with a fairly robust Chardonnay, like Toasted Head, or a milder Sauvignon Blanc, like Wither Hills. You only need bread to complete this.