Tag Archives: NY

Quahogs are a girl’s best friend…

28 Jul

As summer’s annual visit continues, I am enjoying each moment.  The longer days allow for extended outdoor play for my girls, and between referee-ing the girls’ bickering over who-slides-down-the-playset-slide-first, and (trying to) weeding my vegetable garden, one does work up quite an appetite.

As I pick the stubborn grass – and recently discovered to be edible! – and purslane, I stop to pick green beans, yellow tomatoes, zucchini squash, edamame and cucumbers.  The girls come running across the yard towards the garden, and I give them freshly picked vegetables.  Sometimes, they pull up in their battery-motorized car, the little one’s right arm casually hanging over the side, and they pick up a handful of green beans and a cucumber each to munch on – quickly washed with the garden hose.

Other times, a welcome visit from my brother-in-law, an avid fisherman, brings me a cooler full of quahogs from an evening of fishing. 

It takes me SEVERAL hours to scrub, wash, and steam the large clams – many of them larger than the size of my palms.

Clam cakes?  Baked Clams?  I was rifling through the Rolodex of ideas in my mind – but nothing seemed more enticing than a clam chowder.

So here I was, at 1:00 am on a work night, steaming quahogs, pulling out the cooked clam meat, and chopping them into smaller pieces.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to clean the clam belly – normally, with smaller little necks and cherrystones, I don’t think twice; however, these GIGANTIC quahogs were a bit intimidating.

I decided to cut off the darker parts of the clam belly – my labrador joyously scarfed them down – and continued cutting the clams into smaller pieces…. while I continued the seemingly endless cycle of get clams – scrub clams – rinse down – steam in pot (without having water overflow and cover stove top) – pull out clams – pull out meat – chop….

I then took a look at the contents of my refrigerator for chowder ingredients… realizing I hadn’t gone for a serious food-run due to our mini-vacation to Dutch Wonderland.  THE HORROR!

What went into the chowder is probably proportionally different from the standard recipe – we’ll just call it my “Chowder – Improvisational masterpiece.”

Chowder – Improvisational Masterpiece

Three dozen quahogs, steamed and chopped into small pieces.  Dark belly sections were discarded

Three large onions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Six celery stalks – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Six carrots – peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Two potatoes – peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

One 28 ozs can of Eden brand, crushed tomatoes – my understanding is that their cans are not coated with BPA per other brands.

One box, Trader Joe’s lower sodium vegetable broth

Two cups of the clam steaming liquid

In a large stockpot, I poured in the stock, tomato and clam liquid.  I then added the onions, carrots, celery and potato, and cooked until the carrots were tender.  I then added the minced clam – and once it heated through, sat at the kitchen eating bowl-fuls of the briny, fragrant, tangy, rich, soup.

Some girls prefer diamonds.  Other girls prefer roses.  Then again, others might prefer pearls, a handbag or a new car.

I’d just go for a cooler full of freshly dug-up quahogs any day.

A cheery Thursday bento on a snowy Spring morning

24 Mar

I managed to get home from my meetings in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  The Belt Parkway traffic was bearable – or I probably resigned myself I had no other choice.  At least it looks as though the D.O.T. is expanding the parkway – albeit, at the expense of the emergency lanes.  At least I wasn’t in labor, like my hospital roommate was, as we recounted our respective babies’ deliveries.

Being in labor on the Belt Parkway in rush hour traffic, with no access to the emergency lane still gives me severe sympathy pains, even just imagining her anxiety, stress, and pain…

I digress.

I awoke to everything blanketed in a fluffy coat of white.  Fortunately, I saw blacktop on the driveway – but the cars wore fuzzy snow jackets.  I brushed the snow off very quickly, warmed up the cars for a bit, and put down salt on the walkway.  I then slipped back inside for the morning routine, including packing my daughter’s bento.

Thursday’s lunch included:

Steamed multi-grain topped with mabo tofu.  Today’s mabo dofu included many vegetables.  I browned ground turkey, into which I added: finely pureed onion (food processor), 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 inch piece of ginger, bunch finely chopped beet greens (about 1 cup) and 4 cups vegetable broth.  I allowed everything to simmer (on medium low heat) for 30 minutes, constantly stirring until the onions “melted” into a sauce.  I then added 4 chopped scallions and stirred together.  I added a package of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and mixed, gently, into the sauce.  Salt, white pepper and soy sauce seasoned this mixture, and I drizzled a tsp of sesame oil on the top.  Normally, I add miso as a kakushi aji (literally “hidden” taste) or an extra flavor dimension – but I’ve actually run out of miso, so I had to improvise.  A small bit of tobanjan to season, and to add color.  I tend to improvise based on what I have in the fridge, so the recipes vary from time to time depending on the ingredients – this version will vary from earlier versions!

Roasted beets cut into hearts and penguin shapes

Blanched broccoli and sugar snap peas

Sliced yellow pepper slices

Reunion – a Happy Tail of non-bento origin

22 Feb

Over the past two weeks, a few events took place completely distracting me from being able to focus on the daily routine.  My beloved dog underwent successful knee surgery, and is now hopping about the house and yard with a humiliating Elizabethan collar.  Her surgery site is healing well, and I’m hoping she recovers quickly.

We also suffered a lost-cat episode which lasted for eight LONG, excruciating days which left me in quite a state.  My beloved cat Spencer (half of Spen-Max) slipped outside after 9.5 years of living indoors due to my negligence – in the chaotic morning circus of leaving the house on time with the girls: clothed, fed, “shoes-ed,” lunches packed, and dog: walked, five pills shoved down throat, walked again (hurry hurry hurry for Pete’s sake, stop ROLLING IN THE SNOW!)…. I left the garage door wide open as I scurried about to try to get everything done on my own.  I didn’t realize the cat was gone until the next morning – when my purring black foot warmer was nowhere to be found, and my calls for Spencer resulted in only a blank vacuum that looked up at me and blinked.  I panicked. 

Days were spent canvassing the neighborhood, calling her name at odd hours of the day AND night, and shelters and veterinary offices were called as I recounted my emotional tale to a sympathetic ear.  Cans of cat food were tapped at odd hours, bags of surume were rustled at various locations outside.  I put my headlamp on, normally saved for the summer nights when I garden after the girls go to bed, and wandered the streets, calling “Speeen spen… Speeeen-ceer…” and posted “Lost Cat” signs on every other telephone pole – first with a staple gun – and after the third gun refused to staple anything but itself shut – packing tape.  Over the next few days, as I wandered the streets calling for my cat, I posted more fliers with a picture of my silly cat reclining on the floor, looking as though she weighed 20 lbs, while in reality, she only weighed 8 lbs.  Generous girlfriends came over to console, to help watch my girls, to help keep my spirits high, and we even managed a stop at McDonald’s for food. 

Yes.  McDonald’s.  I can’t believe I’m putting this on my post – the last time I had stopped at McDonald’s may have been during a pregnancy craving with my first daughter when nothing wholesome sufficed.  I craved anything greasy, fried, oily, salty, fattening, and so deliciously unhealthy, I would pull my car over after going through a drive-thru to scarf down my guilty cravings in one inhalation.  Literally.  That was about four and a half years ago. 

Stopping at McDonald’s for food may highlight part of the indescribable and overwhelming emotion of desperation and immense guilt I had for losing my cat.  I comforted myself thinking I hadn’t found a dead cat along the road I lived, and I couldn’t stop faulting myself for leaving the door open.  But oh – that apple pie certainly was good, despite the internal argument I had – whether the apples were washed prior to cooking, were they GMO, and did the apple pie use white sugar and partially hydrogenated oil?  Something to be said about fast-food that left one feeling full of empty calories, much guilt, and hope that my daughters would read this later in life after they’ve decided the organic and healthy route was the path to choose.  I digress.

I cried at the Grateful Paw, Last Hope, Little Shelter, the Town of Huntington shelter, as well as at FedEx.  We printed up 100 lost cat fliers, and blanketed them throughout the area, and my fearless girlfriend flagged down (ahem, jumped in front of) neighbors driving out of the cul-de-sac and we spoke of our missing feline.

After eight sleepless nights – I spent several sitting outside at 2:00 am, or taking the dog out in the yard and calling for Spencer at odd hours – I was starting to despair.  I hadn’t found the visible signs of Spencer – dead or alive, and the situation was wearing on me.  I was short of patience, and I had difficulty trying to remain upbeat.  Coworkers, clients, friends – they all realized something was wrong – and to make matters worse, my husband was across the country in Seattle for business, and I felt utterly alone in dealing with the empty shadow the trailed me in the form of Spencer, missing.

Saturday afternoon, after another few hours of walking around with my girlfriend in the neighboring Senior Citizen’s housing complex, I checked my cellphone and saw a voicemail.  I was hesitant – didn’t know what to expect. 

“I looked outside my house, and I think I see Spencer sunning herself!”

I grabbed both kids out of their stroller, put them in their car seats, and rushed back to my neighborhood.

The neighbor, five houses down, had seen a cat resembling Spencer, sunning in the sun patch next to his property.  He pointed to the can of tuna he had opened, and we started strategizing on possibly setting up a trap to try to capture her.  I had rented a trap from the shelter as well, so we debated the placement of the traps.  I then walked over to the area he had seen her – along the side of a house with two window wells.  I peered in the first.  Nothing.  However at the second one, my peering was peered right back by a pair of very large, very scared, yellow-green eyes.  I called out, “Spen spen?” She meowed back, and then hissed.  It definitely was Spencer.

I was frantic.  I didn’t want to lose sight of her again, so I slowly got the open can of tune, and placed it at the edge of the window.  She was obviously hungry, and she cautiously looked over the edge.  I put my snow gloves on, and waited for her to raise her head to the top of the well lip.

I then grabbed her with both hands, and started crying.

Spencer, our dear cat for 9.5 years, was finally home.  A little dusty, and much thinner, but she is safely home.

One note – I was absolutely touched and reminded of the true generosity, kindness and love the volunteers and staff have for their cause of saving and caring for the animals.  Thank you all for your kindness and empathy during the very dark week.

Hence – my legitimate excuse for my delay in bento blogging.  I’ll be back to normal again very shortly…