Beam me up, Scotty. What a couple of weeks. I rarely imbibe, but last week was so stressful I had a brain freeze lasting two days after downing a 10 oz. blended margarita without taking a breath. We’ve been entertaining steadily for two weeks with one to two days breaks in between each arrival. Waving goodbye to one group backing out of the drive, we would race through the house waving the toilet brush in the air like a baton while dragging dirty sheets behind us in an effort to prepare for the next assault. All friends and family, and much loved and enjoyed I might add, but my pots have not seen the inside of the cupboard for days and I if I never hear the phrase “I love to come to your house and be pampered” uttered from another guest’s mouth I will die a happy woman.
The moment my behind would hit the chair, like Pavlov’s dog, it seemed to trigger an immediate response from someone at the table requesting the one thing I happened to be out of. I ran to the store around the corner so many times, the proprietor asked me if I was a secret shopper. Once I went to get half and half appropriately with half my hair blown dry and the other half hanging about my face like damp seaweed. Whew.
Mother came in the third wave. I picked her up in San Jose and drove her the three hours to our new house. I mentioned in my last blog she suffers from a fear of heights. As we live in the mountains, this was some cause for concern on my part. We are not high, high (altitude wise I am speaking to), but certainly live in a pine tree covered low mountain area. Since Mother views a flight of stairs as a threat, I had a feeling this might not go well. Backing out of the driveway only required closing her eyes. The roads, on the other hand, had her “ooh, ooh, oooooh noing”, all over the place. Between the air braking and wrenching of the door handle it was difficult to concentrate on the road. At one point I had to remind her we were in the parking lot at Raley’s and not driving along a precipice in the Alps.
When you have two people visiting the house fairly senior, food becomes an issue. My mother, I believe, is mildly anorexic. Weighing all of 100 lbs. she needs to have “lite” yogurt and diet maple syrup. Now the diet maple syrup was served over buttermilk pancakes practically doing the backstroke in butter with a side of sausage. Somehow the 50 or so calories saved in the syrup didn’t seem of much significance at least to me. This was reminiscent of a friend of mine when in my thirties. Cyd was perpetually dieting, going up and down the scales like a frustrated opera singer. Often we shared our lunch hour. Her favorite restaurant was Fresh Choice, gone now I believe, but those who remember, the menu offered a variety of salad selections as well as soups, pasta, pizza, breads and desserts. In her mind salad was a low-calorie choice. It can be certainly, if you limit your selections to the veggies, the lettuce, and the fruit. However, if you throw a half a bag of croutons, bacon bits, cheddar cheese, and four ladles of bleu cheese dressing over it basically you’ve got yourself a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. After making a mountain of salad, she was always careful to order a diet soda to watch her calories. The soda never had a chance.
On Thursday we went to a wonderful Mexican restaurant in town. Excellent food, wait staff, and decor make it a popular destination with the locals. Their blended margaritas, hence the brain freeze, are served in a bird bath and absolutely delicious. After perusing the menu for twenty minutes, changing her mind four times, then going back to the original dish she orders no matter what Mexican restaurant she is frequenting, my Mother placed her order. Our waitress was funny and personable, and made fabulous guacamole to order at the table. Mother asked if there was any milder salsa, to which the server replied, “Honey, if this sauce was any milder it would be listed on the menu under diced tomatoes”. I gave her an ample tip. People were lined up at the door waiting for tables, so after a long half hour, our meals arrived. Everyone was delighted but me, as mine tasted refrigerated. Asking to have it reheated the girl returned to tell me the chef was making it from start to finish so I would be happy. I pulled the basket of chips in front of me and went to town. Everyone full and sassy, and the dishes cleared, my steaming plate arrived. Sigh. It is residing in a cold grave in the freezer waiting to be resurrected on a night I don’t want to cook.
For dessert they gave me a complimentary Tres Leches (three milk cake). It has cream, coconut, fresh mango and papaya. Absolutely a happy place on a spoon. The owner herself made it from scratch and I was tempted to lie in it and roll around. I am going to try it for myself at home next week and will post the results if successful. Yum.
We returned today after once again driving to the Bay Area to drop a happy Mum and friend Doc in San Jose following a fun and eventful week. The sheets are washing at the moment and waiting to be reapplied to the bed for company arriving tomorrow afternoon. My girlfriend says I should open a B&B. I told her I think I already have. Smile.
This is light and lovely summer fare. Fresh and delicious. Please don’t call for reservations. We’re closed for the season.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups cubed eggplant, skin on
4 oz. spaghetti
3/4 cup dry white wine
14 1/2 oz. reduced fat chicken broth
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
8 cups baby spinach, washed and stemmed
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
Wash eggplant. Slice in 1/2″ slices and sprinkle slices with salt. Cover with water and allow to sit for 30 mins. Rinse well. Cut into cubes to equal 2 1/2 cups. Set aside. Reserve remainder for other use.
Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add eggplant and cook for 5-6 mins. until it begins to soften, adding extra oil if dry.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of salted water according to package directions. Drain. Coat lightly with olive oil and set aside.
Add wine to eggplant mix. Simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 mins. Add broth and tomato paste. Mix well. Bring to low boil, cover, and continue cooking until eggplant is tender, about 6 mins.
Add spinach by the handful until wilted. Stir in tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are slightly wilted. Season with red wine vinegar, pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Toss with cooked pasta. Top with cheese.