Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Father's Day

I was having a difficult time concentrating in church Sunday evening.  Thomas has been leading us through the Westminster Confession of Faith, his Paulinian studies and understanding of grace enriching the wordy articles, bringing new meaning to a soul ever seeking to become better at seeing and living in The Big Picture (another story for another time).

It was Father's Day, always a distraction.  A child's memory saw the congregation from the family pew third from the back on the left side of the aisle facing the pulpit.  Daddy anchored the aisle, Mama sat at the opposite end, the five of us between them, scrubbed clean,  in starched and ironed clothes and spit shined shoes.

Baptism in the Presbyterian Church in America carries a charge to the congregation to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  We had many father-figures to look after us:  Matt Walley, Mr. Haddon, Sinkie McKay, Chris Graham, Pete Smith, Basil Basila, Evans Martin, H.E. McInnis, Ken McInnis, Sonny Rush, Uncle Sherman, George Cecil...  The charge isn't exclusive to Wednesdays and Sundays, it includes every moment of every day (and sleep if necessary).  I see their smiles, can hear them sing their favorite hymns, feel their encouragement, know the genuine love given to a child of their own in the scope of the universal family through Christ.
There's Daddy in the background.  I have no clue why he was toting 
a gun.  See the hat?  And the khakis?

The memory of our own daddy fills my heart;  the way his hat was always cocked to one side, bright flashing brown eyes, his small frame with the quick step constantly outfitted in khakis (probably why I despise ironing - he insisted on heavy starch), the smell of his shaving soap, the sound of him working down in the shop usually singing "I'm an old cowhand (from the Rio Grande)."

I miss him - especially as Father's Day winds down.  Did you have an excellent day with your daddy?  I'd like to think y'all have called them or fixed their favorite meals and desserts or gave them another tie or pair of houseshoes or Old Spice to let them know they were thought about and appreciated.  I pray that as you both get older you become more and more dear to each other.  And when the time comes to face Father's Day without them, I hope you've the fullness of memory to get through it like I've just done; wrapped in a hug from the past.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Star (Supposed to be Orzo) Pasta Salad: New Family Favorite

Last week the Pipkins' Family Reunion was held in this old house with it's high ceilings, ample seating space, and warm welcoming atmosphere.  The rain dampened nothing but the outside, spirited conversations (and a few spirits on the front porch the night before) and the catching up on a year's worth of news permeated every corner of every room of the house.  Two six-foot tables were filled with food from one end to the other -- and that's just food, sweet tea and desserts were on two other tables.  There wasn't a bad thing on the food tables at all but there was one favorite for me and The Fellows and Gurlfriends:  Claudia's orzo salad.

I know.  This isn't orzo.

 Amazing, right?  We could've fed another fifty people.

The orzo salad brought by Claudia, though... The flavors were unexpected:  heavy basil without being overpowering, crunch of pine nut and finely diced sweet onion, sweet bites of cranberry, and just enough olive oil to coat the pasta and help blend the flavors.  We were fairly fighting over the leftovers of it, which were all gone by Sunday night.  

I decided today I wanted to make it to carry to friends' house whose mom had passed.  I've known them my entire life, their children were in Mama's kindergarten, their grandchildren entrusted to my care as a home-based child care provider in a previous chapter of life a decade long.  The memorandum was made:  feta cheese, dried cranberries, and orzo.

Have I mentioned before that Leakesville has one grocery store?  Yep.  Piggly Wiggly.  The dollar stores and Fred's also have some groceries but the Pig is the main source for food in this town of 898 souls.  List in hand and cruising down the dairy aisle I was delighted to find crumbled feta cheese, the one item on the list I wasn't expecting to find.  I had already planned to substitute smoked gouda for it (and may yet).  Dried cranberries were in stock.  Only orzo was left to pick up.  Alas.  No orzo.  

I didn't think elbow or fusilli, bowtie or shell or rigatini or penne would work.  The pasta needed to be dense or compact to carry it's own starchiness and heft in the salad.  Or something of that nature.  Glancing around I spotted the star pasta from Mexico.  It'd have to work (and it did).

Coming home to cook the pasta and assemble the salad, I discovered there were no pine nuts.  I think I ate them a couple of weeks ago.  I get like that sometimes, purchasing a whole can of unsalted roasted cashews and consuming a few at a time every time they're walked by until they're gone... or a half pound of pine nuts taken out of the freezer in the course of cleaning it.

There are plenty of roasted chopped pecans, though.  And a lime to add back in flavor that's going to be missing from the pine nuts.  

I've guessed at the amounts of everything making Claudia's salad and it's so close to hers, I'll have to have her make it again just to check and see (which is an awesome way to get her back up here from the Coast).

Here's what you'll need:
One pound of orzo (or two 7 ounce packages star pasta)
Half-cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest from one lime
Juice of one lime
Half-cup diced fresh basil
Half-cup finely chopped sweet onion
Half-cup roasted chopped pecans (or half-cup pine nuts and forget the lime)
Four ounces of crumbled feta
One cup dried cranberries
 No Southern freezer is without pecans in it.  I keep roasted chopped
pecans in the freezer for cheesecake crusts, Italian cream cakes, and 
emergencies, just like today's.
Fresh basil from the little herb garden.  I only grow rosemary,
garlic, oregano, basil, dill, and taragon - my favorites!

Cook pasta, drain, and rinse well.  In bowl combine olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, chopped onion, and basil.  Add everything else but the pasta, making sure everything is well coated with oil.

Add pasta and mix until all ingredients are well distributed.
Only the pasta water was salted.  The feta's saltiness is adequate
for the entire salad.
I've put it in the very same pretty (disposable) bowl Claudia brought the salad in last week so the family won't have to return it.  It's also been garnished with basil blossoms.

It's quick and easy and delicious.  I had everything chopped and mixed together by the time the pasta was finished cooking.  With any recipe posted, y'all make it your own.  My friend Chris doesn't care for pine nuts and said she used almonds instead.  I'm so going to do that when I make this again.  Don't care for basil?  uhmmmm... it kind of IS the main flavor - you might want to try a different recipe.  Dried blueberries or white raisins instead of dried cranberries?  I think that'd be splendid!  Make it your family favorite today.

Y'all enjoy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A New Sauce for the Fambly Reunion: Chipotle Blueberry Barbecue Sauce

A week from today the decendants of Robert Prine and Matilda Louise will be gathering in this home for the annual fambly reunion.  I love fambly, love having them here under the roof and in the yard of this 105 year old late Victorian home.  It's a potluck affair, but Cousin Ronny and I supply the meats:  ham, fried chicken, leftover ribs and sausages from Friday night's barbecue, and roasted/smoked pork loin.

Earlier in the week Mama and I picked blueberries from her rabbit's eye bushes.  A gallon of the large delicious fruit was harvested in no time and it was sent home with me.  I wanted to do something amazing with them and Mrs. Mary posted this recipe on Facebook for me.  It's just what was needed to go with the pork loin for the fambly reunion!

It is not my recipe and for the first making, I didn't tweak it in any way, sort, or fashion.  I wanted to share it with y'all 'cause it's so easy.   It's a little on the warm-ish side.  If you don't like heat used the adobo sauce from the chipotle peppers and don't put a a chipotle pepper in it!

Gather all the ingredients.

The brown sugar is peeking in the corner of the photo.

Put all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and cook until it's as thick as you like it.
This is actually a double batch in the pot.  And you really will want to use
a non-reactive pot.  The high acidity of the juice and berries can pull
a metal flavor out of an aluminum pot.

Tadadaaaaa!  I used the immersion blender to make the sauce a little smoother, it's a personal preference.  

And that's all there is to it.  I like it a lot, thinking this will be the go-to sauce, replacing Jezebel sauce, for roasted pork loin.  It definitely has some heat to it, but not so much you'll need a glass of milk to stop the burn.  Most of the fambly is going to love it.  We're hot and sweet that way...

Y'all enjoy!