I played tennis last week for the first time in five months!
My last time playing was a match in March against my old team at Dante Fascell, where my partner threw down her racket and said she quit because she refused to play with cheaters. We eventually resumed the match and ended up winning, but it was a dramatic end to our season. Anyway- it was so nice to be out on the court getting exercise and fresh air, but even nicer to reconnect with old friends and teammates.
“Tennis has been my sanity,” said my friend Ellen, who arranged the game.
“My horses have been mine,” said Lulu, who is married to a vet and lives in the Redlands on a large property.
“Mine has been the Keys,” I said. Also walking and gardening, but mostly the Keys.
“I have never cooked so much in my life,” said Ellen, who of all my friends has been the most cautious. She just started getting take-out and only from Sage.
A petite brunette who is a Weight Watcher Leader (now retired) she said, “I went to Publix and finally weighed myself after months. I gained weight.” She attributed it to all the tasting she’s been doing while cooking. We all admitted we’d gained weight during the lock down, out of boredom and having to cook all the time.
“I’m having a hard time social distancing from my refrigerator.”Lulu
“The first thing I think of when I wake up is ‘What should I make for dinner tonight?’ There’s just something wrong with that,” said Lulu.
We all agreed it’s been a struggle to come up with interesting menus for meals, especially Ellen who doesn’t eat red meat or pork. She said the other night she’d been at her daughter’s visiting the grandchildren and got home at 7 pm, with nothing prepared for dinner.
“You’re getting an omelette tonight,” she said to her husband Mark.
“Fine,” he said.
Our fourth tennis player, Martha said her husband likes to eat whatever he’s in the mood for that day, making it impossible to plan ahead.
“It’s very challenging,” she admitted.
My husband Zeke isn’t that challenging, but he is a meat and potatoes kind of guy so my soup and sandwich dinners, or breakfast for dinner, don’t go over too well with him. The other night I was attempting a complicated New York Times recipe for Smoky Eggplant Croquettes by Gabrielle Hamilton. I broiled the eggplant, peeled it and strained off the juices, added olive oil, garlic and salt and spread it out on the silpat as instructed. I then got to the next part of the directions: Freeze overnight. They always say you should read a recipe through before you start, and this is a perfect example of why that is a good idea.
At any rate, I had to cook something for dinner, so I dumped a box of Farafelle pasta into boiling salted water and served it with homemade pesto, chopped chicken from leftover Publix rotisserie, sun-dried tomatoes and some crumbled feta cheese. Roasted pine nuts would’ve been a welcome addition, but I didn’t have the energy. It was good enough for a last minute dinner and the next night, I took the frozen eggplant out, cut it into rectangular chucks, refroze it and then dredged it in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried it at 350 degrees. It tasted really good, although some of the croquettes were still cold in the middle.
My idea had been to serve the croquettes as part of a Mezze platter, with Trader Joe’s grape leaves, cherry tomatoes, black olives, cucumber slices, hummus and homemade pita bread. This idea did not float with Zeke. He didn’t even know what a Mezze platter was (“You’re too fancy for me”) and doesn’t like grape leaves, tomatoes, olives or hummus. There’s something about the texture of mushy foods (he has a similar aversion to avocados, mushrooms and asparagus tips) that Zeke can’t stand and he doesn’t feel appetizers are an actual dinner. Personally, I could eat appetizers for dinner every night, but not Zeke, so he made some skewers with beef and veggies, that he then grilled.
Skewers are an easy dinner to make if you have meat on hand. Don’t buy the pre-made skewers, as these are more expensive. We used top sirloin, cut in chunks with sliced Vidalia onion and yellow bell pepper and I sprinkled it all with a good dose of Greek seasoning. You could use chicken instead of beef, or even scallops or shrimp, but in that case, skewer your veggies separately, as they will need more time to cook. Zeke put his grilled beef skewer and veggies in the homemade pita with some hot sauce, for an easy sandwich.
The Homemade Pita Bread was a New York Times recipe and, while rather fun, I’m not sure I would make again. It was cool to see them puff up in the oven and they were softer than pita bread you buy in the store, almost like a na’an. As I was kneading the dough into little balls I said to Zeke:
“I get why people have gotten into baking in the Pandemic.”Me
You sprinkle the yeast into water with sugar, wait for it to bubble up, then add the flour and cover it. It doubles in size, like a miracle, smelling yeasty and full of life. You bunch it down (theraputic) and knead it on a floured surface until it transforms into a satiny dough. Shape it into balls, bake it- creation! Like playing Dr. Frankenstein in your own kitchen, baking is both restorative and healing. It’s something totally under the creator’s control, something we’ve all been craving during this crazy time of our lives.
I am, however, perfectly ok with buying Daily Bread pitas at Publix and they certainly seemed more uniform in size than my misshapen attempts. They did work great with some scrambled eggs and tomatoes for breakfast.
Dinner of the week definitely goes to our dinner Saturday night at Martha and Luis’s house. First, we had Torchon pate from D’Artagnan, the Duck Store. It was smooth and creamy, like butter with no heavy gamey taste; served with little toasts and chilled Veuve Cliquot champagne, it was heavenly. Dinner was two ducks from D’Artagnan, that Luis had roasted and Martha made Julia Child’s Duck a l’orange sauce to adorn the bronzed beauties. Divine! They served the duck with fingerling potatoes and onions that had been roasted in duck fat and couscous with golden raisins. I made a green salad to serve with dinner, for a little lightness and to get some greens in.
Martha set a beautiful table, we were socially distanced at opposite ends of the table; their daughter Carolina joined us. It was all delicious and I’d used my ice cream maker to prepare two different frozen concoctions from The Last Course for dessert. Black Peppercorn ice cream (really!) was a revelation, served with Strawberry Sorbet and shards of golden, Pistachio Nut Brittle. I loved the combo of flavors with the clean fruitiness of the strawberry sorbet, cutting the rich and slightly spicy peppercorn ice cream. And who doesn’t like homemade brittle?
A.J. asked me if I wanted Wyatt for one last Gigi Camp. Hmmm… I thought about the peace and silence of the Sanctuary, of morning yoga and time to write, sipping my coffee in bed, of long walks listening to podcasts and the glass of frozen rose waiting for me when I returned, and of being able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted for dinner. But then I realized Wyatt was starting school soon and this would be my last time this summer to have him for Gigi Camp, so of course I said yes.
We went to the grocery store to stock up on Wyatt’s favorites- Spaghettios and yogurt- and to get the fixings for a Shark Week Sundae (marshmallow fluff, fruit roll ups, ice cream, blue sprinkles, sugar cones) when Wyatt spotted a shiny, green Hot Wheels car on display at the end of the aisle. I bought it for him and said he could get it on the condition that he listen to me all day. Well, he didn’t get it the first day, but he did the second day. The third day, I had a Zoom Meeting. For some reason, every time I’ve had one this year, I’ve had Wyatt.
I put him up in my bedroom, with my phone on a show he liked and went to my computer set up downstairs. I have to say this about Zoom meetings. Everyone can see you people! During this particular one, I saw someone eating lunch, someone licking envelopes, another person was wiping their nose, someone else was moving locations and another person shuffled papers around in their makeshift office. When I heard “Gigi, help!” I put the top of my laptop down and ran upstairs. Wyatt’s show had ended, or some such emergency. I resolved it and went back to Zoom.
After the meeting, I took Wyatt to lunch at Key Largo Fisheries because they have a good Peel-n-eat shrimp and he loves shrimp. My friend Elmy describes Key Largo Fisheries as like a “Shorty’s for seafood”, but unlike Shorty’s, there are no servers. You wait in line, order and have to go pick up your order when the buzzer beeps.
Someone at the Sanctuary told me the way Key Largo Fisheries started was that fishermen would bring their catch to the Pilot House restaurant, but when the Pilot House had bought its fill, the fishermen were left with the rest of their fish. Key Largo Fisheries opened in 1972 to buy, and then sell, the extra seafood as a Seafood Market. This is where most locals come to get their fresh fish, stone crabs and lobster to cook for dinner. All the food I’ve ever eaten here has been fresh and good.
Anyway, this lunch was a lesson in indigestion. We ordered, sat by the water where we fed the fish pellets dispensed for 25 cents out of a glass dispenser. Luckily, I had plenty of quarters to keep the fish fed and Wyatt entertained. We saw yellowtail, parrotfish, barracuda and even a shark, which Wyatt spotted. We got buzzed, I picked up our food and returned to the table. Wyatt took one bite of his shrimp and started crying.
“It’s too spicy!” he said.
So, I went back up the steps to get a glass of water, which I brought back to the table to wash each shrimp off and peeled them. He then dunked them in ketchup (cocktail sauce is too spicy too) and gobbled them down. By the time I got around to my lunch- a BLT with Lobster– it was cold. The BLT with lobster didn’t really work for me- the little pieces of lobster kept falling out, the croissant was too soft for the filling and the bacon wasn’t cooked enough. Anyway, we finished our lunches and I promised Wyatt I’d get him a chocolate covered Key Lime Pie on a stick for dessert.
Alas, the The Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Company was closed, so I took Wyatt to Dairy Queen to get a soft serve ice cream dipped in chocolate. We went outside to eat it and, if you’ve ever gotten a chocolate dipped soft serve ice cream, you know it’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially in 90 degree heat. The vanilla ice cream starts melting, leaking all over your hands and then you take a bite of the frozen chocolate shell that will inevitably slide, like an avalanche, down your cone and onto the ground. Wyatt’s cone proved no exception and the nice lady at DQ, who put sprinkles on his cone, only gave me one napkin! I kept trying to get Wyatt to throw away the rest of the cone, as he got increasingly messier, but he refused. He ate it down to the very last bite of soggy, criss-crossed interior filled with melted ice cream and random sprinkles. I washed him off with some water I had in my car and we headed back to the condo, where his parents were coming to pick him up.
“Well Wyatt, what was your favorite part of Gigi Camp?” I asked him.
“My new green car,” he said.
“Even better than seeing the shark?” I asked.
“No, actually my favorite part of Gigi Camp was spending time with you,” he said.
“Oh Wyatt! My favorite part of Gigi Camp was spending time with you!”
Heart melts here.
We both agreed we learned things from each other in this third and final session of Gigi Camp 2020. Wyatt learned that if you pick Neopolitan Ice Cream, you get three flavors in one carton. I learned that if the conversation you’re having on an I-Phone suddenly disappears, you tap the little square in the right hand corner to get it to reappear. Yes, I am getting technology tips from my four-year-old grandson.
I finished the TV show Catastrophe– I really liked it; there are four seasons. Carrie Fisher died during filming so they worked her death into the last episode. I really wish it would have gone on another season- I fell in love with the characters- but apparently the actor/writer Rob Delaney felt he had said everything he wanted to regarding marriage and relationships. Really? I feel that subject is a never-ending conversation.
GOOD NEWS! I got asked to be part of the Yelp Elite Squad. I said yes to YES and am looking forward to contributing to Yelp with restaurant and hotel reviews. I also get invited to special Yelp events through being part of YES.
BAD NEWS! My stepdaughter Lauren, who’s been studying her ass off the the Florida Bar Exam which was to be this week, found out it’s been postponed until October. By that time, she’ll be in school at Georgetown and who knows how much she’s studied for will be retained? Apparently, they’ve been having issues with the tests crashing in other states. Disappointing for everyone who’ve been studying for the Bar for months.
Lastly, here are some Foodie Newsletters I enjoyed, recommended by Taste. A Newsletter by Alison Roman, i love you egg, Some Meals Considered, On Hunger and You Can Do This.
Stay safe, read your recipe directions all the way through before you begin and keep on doing whatever keeps you sane!
Every time I look around (look around) Every time I look around (Every time I look around) Ooh baby, ooh baby It’s making me crazy It’s in my faceOMC
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