March 25 – March 31, 2019
Monday: Dinner at Bill and Rosanna’s
Tuesday: Crab Cakes and Pork-Fried Rice
Wednesday: Guests of Dorrie and Dick at the Port Royal Club
Thursday: Dinner Party for thousands at Annie and Dennis’s
Friday: Bayside Grill
Sunday: Take-out from Taipei, Fox Chapel
Our last week in Naples was a week of dining out. We did cook one meal last week – crab cakes and pork-fried rice for Tim and Hilda who were visiting. But we’ve already shared both of those dishes with you. However, we are lucky to have very nice and hospitable friends and the rest of the week saw us at Bill and Rosanna’s place for dinner on Monday, with Dick and Dorrie at the Port Royal Club for dinner on Wednesday, and on Thursday at Annie and Dennis’s for a dinner party involving many old and current friends. Our preparation for dinner last week was simply showering, brushing our teeth and hair and showing up to enjoy others’ cooking.
Above, there is a great picture of, well to use the correct plural noun for Catholic schoolgirls, a “shame” of Mount Mercy girls from Dennis and Annie’s party. We forgot to take a picture at our other two meals. And really, the only cooking tips that we’re going to offer this week are some of the short cuts we take with breakfast, lunch and dinner. These will have the added advantage of proving that we are not all about farm-to-table, cooking from scratch or making sure that the chickens slaughtered for our table had a nice life before the butcher grabbed them by the neck.
Breakfast: SWMBO is addicted to orange juice and insists that there must be 2 or three bottles in various refrigerators at all times. My working theory is that, sometime in her childhood there was a strike by citrus workers and she had to suffer through weeks of citrus-withdrawal. In any event, in our house, orange juice is a must. I don’t drink it myself, although the adult digestive drink I consume just as faithfully as Beez does her juice is orange-flavored and I think that should count. On Sundays we usually make serious BLTs or cook eggs and sausage but during the rest of the week our breakfasts are almost invariably toasted English muffins spread with chunky peanut-butter and dotted with firm, plump blueberries. The combination of cold, tart berries with the heft of the peanut butter, melting on the warm muffins, is one of the great flavor combinations in the world. Give it a try.
Lunch: Surely this is the most variable meal in anybody’s day. We do go out for lunch, but rarely. Our approach is simple – if we have appropriate leftovers, we eat them. If not, we (well, I) make tuna-salad or egg salad or turkey sandwiches, or we get sandwiches on the way back from the gym or a walk or the hair dresser or nail salon (Beez). In our neighborhood we have some excellent sandwich-makers – Feast on Brilliant and B&Z Deli – and if I’m picking up the sandwiches we’re having dill pickles and potato chips into the bargain.
Dinner: Dinner is almost always home-made, including any appetizers, except for two wonderful products that Mere turned us onto, last year I think, when we visited her in Naples: Sabra Red-Pepper Hummus and Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps. Trust me, a good gin martini with a few pretzel-crisps dipped into Sabra red-pepper hummus and you will be able to face any amount of disaster, politics of personal destruction or utterly useless news about the Kardashians on the evening news.
Toasted English Muffins with Blueberries and Peanut Butter
This recipe is, of course, a bit of a joke. Everyone knows how to toast a muffin and spread peanut-butter. Dotting the peanut butter with blueberries may be a new idea for many of you, but you can work it out. Let me, however, offer three highly opinionated comments on this breakfast. 1. Thomas’s English Muffins. There are other muffins in this world, some of them even superior to Thomas’s. But nothing works with peanut-butter and blueberries like Thomas’s. And Thomas’s are available at every market and many gas stations. 2. Jif Chunky Peanut Butter. The Chunky part is more important than the Jif part – so Peter Pan and others might be okay. As to organic or natural peanut butters (the kind you need a Kitchen Aid Mixer to stir for several hours before using), as Francisco Cervelli* might say, if he offered cooking advice and not dating advice, “NOOOOOO!” The organic stuff is too dry. Use it if you must for reasons of gastronomic purity or environmental sympathy or vegan fantasy, but understand that you are not using it for reasons of good taste. 3. Blueberries. Sometimes we are out of blueberries and have our muffins with peanut butter only. But that concoction, energy-giving as it is, offers a fairly monochromatic taste. Add a carpet of blueberries to the peanut butter, however, and you have an explosion of tart sweetness subsiding into the earthy paste of the peanut butter accentuated by the crusty resistance of a well-toasted muffin. Finish off with a glass of cold milk (me) or a cup of coffee (Beez) and you are on your way to a fine, productive day.
*Who, those of you who do not live in Pittsburgh, may be asking, is Francisco Cervelli? He is the spectacular catcher and natural captain of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Born of Italian parents in Venezuela, he is one of the brighter personalities on the planet. You might even be able to see some of his dating-advice videos on-line and hear one of his long, drawn-out “NOOOOOs”. If he ran for mayor in Pittsburgh, he would probably win.