For over three years a bright, inquisitive spirit name Rusty, aka ‘the bean’, aka ‘littleman’*, has brightened the rooms and lawns of Casa Stuarti. Russ was so sweet to and so hopeful about all humans that he would curl up next to any previously unknown guest at the house. He was, alas, fiercely adverse toward all other dogs (caninocidal). This made taking a walk with him dramatic. Rusty has cowed the Springer Spaniel who lives next door and is at least twice his size, gone after assorted Labradors and Retrievers and had to be restrained from attacking the Bernese Mountain Dog who lives in serene stupor around the corner. We think Russ suffered from species-dysphoria.
*Rusty has too many nicknames to remember – Andrew referred to him as ‘Rupert’ and ‘Ruth Bader Yinzburgh,” Billy always greeted him with a “How are we doing, Russell.” Beez, who was head-over-heels for him called him “Baba,” and “Rubby.” I often called him “the mook” and, when he attacked other dogs, “you little monster.”
He was also a great infielder and required a game of catch every time he ushered (herded) you into the house upon your return home. He could catch a thrown ball from behind while narrowly avoiding chairs, chests of drawers, fireplace tools and leaping over any other obstacles in the family room. He would have made a fine Pittsburgh Pirate with fewer errors than most of the current crew, if his total incapacity at the plate hadn’t disqualified him.
Alas, the past tenses you may have noted in the last few paragraphs are not solecisms. For the great-hearted Rusty was also weak-hearted, as it turned out, and we lost him a week ago. I couldn’t bring myself to write about him for a while, but he deserves to know that we think about him quite often (I’m fairly certain that he continues to follow this blog).
The geographical story of Rusty’s life holds a certain fascination for us. Andrew and Julia acquired him as a ‘rescue’ dog in San Francisco. At the time, he went by the name of “Chico” and may well have come from south of the border. He followed his owner to Mare Island and then to Connecticut, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, then Brooklyn and finally came to live with us as he got older. He explained to me, in his initial interview for ‘house pet,’ that he had grown tired of the big city and felt the need for a more bucolic lifestyle. He also noted that he was continent, didn’t eat much and thought that Beez was the most beautiful person he had ever met. I offered him the job on the spot.
Wherever you are Russ, please know that along with your predecessor, Maxie, you are not forgotten. Here is a picture of Rusty with his nose against a pillow which looks for all the world like Fionna McDuffie Stewart (Maxie), our Beagle:
And so, we needed some comfort last week. Mostly, Beez and I just spoke to each other about the little guy. And, of course, every time someone came to the house, we had to explain why no Rusty, which was like biting on a bad tooth.
But then Ina Garten who, let me be clear, does not know us,* provided some of the comfort we needed with her new cookbook. And we’ll share one of her recipes with you – along with this picture of our noble, departed dog:
*Through no fault of mine. You may recall that we dined at the famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns several years ago. Ina and her husband, Jeffrey, were seated at the next table and, noticing this, I was in the process of rising to introduce myself when more discreet members of the clan clamped both of my arms to the table and said, “Don’t even think about it.” Well, I continued to think about it, but in the interest of marital harmony suppressed my natural sociability and lost myself in the food (and several martinis).
I’m pretty sure that Ina and I would have become great friends, but it was not to be.
ROASTED PEPPERS, SAUSAGES AND ONIONS
(Ina Garten, Modern Comfort Food)
Timing: 60-70 minutes (includes prep)
Note: We served this over polenta with fresh corn kernels
and you can cook that while the sausages are roasting.
Mashed potatoes would work, as well.
Ingredients: Serves 6
1 pound each, sweet and hot Italian sausage links (we used 2 lbs. of “hot” which we prefer)
4 large bell peppers: 2 red, 2 orange, cored, seeded and cut into ½” strips
2 large poblano peppers, cored, seeded and cut into ½” strips (Giant Eagle, a constant thorn in my side, had no poblano so we used Anaheim – the poblano would bring a greater flavor)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 large onions cut into ½ wedges through the core (i.e., preserving the root end to hold them together)
1 medium fennel bulb halved, cored and sliced crosswise ¼” thick
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves) – we used two cloves grated
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
Good Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and pepper
For garnish: ½ cup julienned basil leaves
For serving: Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 400 F
Have a large, shallow roasting pan ready
Cut onion, peppers and fennel
Measure out other ingredients
Put onions along with oregano, 1 tablespoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper into shallow roasting pan.
Add ¼ cup olive oil and toss well. Don’t crowd or vegetables won’t brown.
On a separate sheet pan, toss the sausages with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread them in a single layer.
Place both pans in the oven for 20 minutes.
Now toss the vegetables and add the sausages to the roasting pan. Add the tomatoes and pour in the wine. Roast for another 25-30 minutes.
Off the heat, sprinkle on the basil and toss well. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot with polenta or mashed potatoes and the grated cheese on the side. We tossed some sauteed fresh corn into our polenta, which gave it a nice pop.
Other dishes from last week