Friday, March 18, 2011

The Joys of Parenthood

I'm a pretty happy camper right now since my eldest son (that would be Andy) came home recently.

Home?  Who am I kidding?  He left our house in 2000 and has lived in NYC ever since.  He has a great apartment and a great life  up there, so in all honesty, I guess that's his home, not our house here in Atlanta.  Nonetheless, both he and his brother (Eric) still have their rooms in our house and I have no intention of ever, ever turning them into a gym or a library or any other such thing.  In some way, I hope they always consider this as "home," even if it isn't the house in which they grew up.

Andy's desk

Eric's room (stuffed animals and all)

When they come here, I'm like a little pig in you-know-what as it means I get to cook, bake and feed everyone to my heart's content.  This usually includes their friends, so there is no shortage of people around our dinner table.  The more the merrier, I say!

That's the good part.  Oh, but there is a bad part too, and if you have grown kids who no longer live at home, then you know exactly what I am talking about.  That's the fact that they go out late at night with their friends and don't get home until 3 o'clock in the morning.  Or later.

I know, I know.  They are adults and they manage quite well on their own in their respective cities, without  interference from parental units.  What we parents don't know won't hurt us.  But when they're under our roof?  Ha, that's a whole different story!

It starts when they head out at 11pm.  You go to bed as usual (falling asleep while trying to watch the news) and in a perfect world, you sleep soundly until 8am or so when you awaken to the sun streaming in the bedroom and the car parked in front so you know they made it home safely. 

Oh, but that's not what happens!  You fall asleep during the news alright, but then you wake up to turn off the TV at 2:30am and you can't help yourself.  You get out of bed, pad down the hall and realize that the outside lights are still on and they still aren't home (not that you expected them to be).  Crap.

You then go back to bed and pretend you are going back to sleep, but of course you don't.  You lie there, imagining all sorts of horrible things until you finally hear the key in the lock and the sound of muffled voices.  You breathe a silent sigh of relief, roll over and finally - FINALLY - drift off.  Of course, now it's 3:30am.  This will not serve you well when it's time to get up.  Or for the next two days afterwards.  Sigh.

So I take my joy in the fact that we are sleeping under the same roof (well, sort of, considering that they probably don't hit the bed within 3 hours of my getting up) and spending some good time together.  When Andy shows up, that means good time in the kitchen. 

This past weekend, he introduced me to Matbucha.  He described it as a cooked salad which originated amongst Moroccan Jews.  He calls it peasant food which is common to Israel and consumed at almost every meal.  I looked it up and of course he knew exactly what he was talking about.

We enjoyed it with dinner that evening and I will confess that I polished off the leftovers at breakfast for several days after he returned to New York.  While you might want to enjoy it for lunch or dinner instead, I highly recommend that you whip up a batch of this stuff.  It's another one of those easy recipes where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 green bell peppers, cut into large dice
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 jalapenos (or other hot pepper), chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste
Zhatar seasoning, to taste

Heat olive in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add green peppers, onion and jalapenos and cook, stirring frequently,  for 12 - 15 minutes until soft and tender, but not caramelized.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 15 minutes more or until mixture thickens slightly.  Add salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, paprika and Zhatar to taste.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes to let flavors meld.  Taste to adjust seasonings.

Yield:  6 to 8 servings

The better the beer, the better the finished dish, right?

*  I would love to give you more specific amounts, but I was lucky just to get the basics from Andy  (see picture with beer).  He cooks like I do - a little of this, a little of that, oh and maybe more of both.  You can trust me that this recipe is delicious, but you're gonna have to trust your own judgment on the seasonings.

*  You can serve this warm, cold or at room temperature.  You can eat it alone, you can serve it as a side dish or you can serve it as a complement to meat, fish or chicken.  Or, take a leaf from my book and eat it for breakfast which I think is a healthy and spicy way to start your day!

*  One more thing.  Andy learned his basic cooking skills from me, but I think the student has now surpassed the teacher....

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