Happy Valentines Day folks. I hope everyone is smearing themselves with blood and standing around naked, waiting to get smacked by a youth with a goathide whip in a misguided effort to get pregnant, because like it or not, that’s what it’s all about. Thank you ancient Rome! Now, usually I like to stick with tradition… for example nothing enrages me more than fan gear in COLORS OTHER THAN THE TEAM’S ACTUAL COLORS.
I like biscuit style strawberry shortcake and get Hulk style mad when presented with anything else, and people who drink carbonated beverages before noon freak me out. I’ll spare you the extent of my judgemental nature but believe me, it only gets more scathing and 90% of it revolves around the way people act in and around mass transit, so if you’re in an airport, tighten the f*** up. Another 5% revolves around cake mixes and cookie dough that comes out of a tube- don’t waste my time people. The final 5% is food that tastes sweet even though it shouldn’t, like poorly made marinara sauce and those green and white starlight mints, which are just gross. Why mess with a good thing? Was the red and white Starlite mint just not disgusting enough? Congratulations, you’ve suceeded in breaking something that did not need fixing.
So, considering my commitment to traditionalism you may be surprised to find out that I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day ye olde fashioned way with the nakedness, blood, and whipping. Disappointed? Having put it that way, now I am too. Maybe it’s time to go back to the old ways, like the founders would have wanted. I love it when stupid politicians talk about how America is based on Christianity, when in fact much of Christianity is based on totally crazy pagan s***. Sarah Palin has much more in common with the ancient Romans than she cares to admit- when it comes to family planning, getting whipped with goat hide is about as effective as abstinence only education was for Bristol. The thing is, Romans had a good excuse for not embracing science at that point as a lot of it didn’t really exist yet. Not sure what’s up with Sarah.
My Valentine’s rituals involve friends, food, and pink nail polish. As for the latter, my manicure was too chipped for work this morning so I had to take it off, but I was sporting OPI’s “I’m Wired.” Instead I pulled on a sweater of a similar color ($19.99 at H & M) to keep the Valentine’s dream alive and called it a day. As for the friends and food, my feeling right now is not so much “I’m Wired” as “I’m Tired,” though in a very satisfying way.
Yesterday I invited some folks over to cheer Eric up and put a stop to our self imposed isolation. Even though I hate suprises, Eric seems to like them so I figured it was worth the trouble. How did I get him out of the house, people wanted to know. By telling him to leave and not to question my ways! How did I get away with making 200 tiny meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup, a fresh loaf of bread, sugar cookies and red velvet cake without tipping him off? (This is all after making Southern Living’s Pecan Praline French Toast for breakfast with last week’s stale bread). Apparently, Eric is so used to the crazy that he no longer bats an eyelash at any of it. You know are berserk when you can get away with this kind of thing with zero subterfuge.
First, the bad news: the cake was underwhelming- I blame myself because I increased the cocoa powder without upping the liquid ingredients enough, and it was just kind of dry and still not particularly chocolatey. Also, I didn’t go to town with the red food dye so it was a rather weird burnt umber color. Wow, it’s the worst of all worlds! However, the cream cheese frosting was as good as it’s ever been so I will link to that recipe . (Note: this is not the cake recipe I used… just the frosting recipe at the bottom of the page.)
My first meatball endeavor was much more successful. When I was a young tween, desperate to see the world beyond the city limits of Salisbury MD, my mother took me to a short lived coffee shop/cafe in our little downtown. I had my first cappucino there, and my first taste of Italian wedding soup. It was marvelous! I felt quite grown up and “city-fied” at the time, and so for me, Italian wedding soup has always tasted like better things to come if you keep on trucking and dream big. It’s hard for me not to order it whenever I get the chance, BUT I’ve never made it at home due to the fact that my Aunt Audrey made such great meatballs, I was always too scared to try. I figured there was some secret Italian wizardy that was beyond an Irish Pollack like me.
But, sadly, my Aunt Audrey died in late spring of 2009 and as much as we all mourn her I know she would want the meatball show to go on. I’m not sure how she made hers, though I might be able to pick up a few tips this weekend when we all gather for my uncle’s wedding. I just hope I didn’t bring too much shame to the family with my rookie attempts.
As usual, I more or less used the America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I tripled it, and instead of using just pork and beef as they called for, I used equal parts pork, beef, and veal. I used about 1/4 of the recipe to make large meatballs (1 1/2 inch in diameter) for spaghetti, and then rolled out the rest into tiny ones (maybe 1/2 inch in diameter) which I fried and reserved for soup the next day. The large ones won’t cook all the way through in the browning process and must be finished some other way (either in sauce, or in the oven). The small ones cooked through completely in the oil, and then just need to be drained well on paper towels before adding to another recipe.
For the soup, I did it sort of a crazy way to reserve a few vegetarian portions.
Several TBS olive oil (I love it when people specify “good quality olive oil”, like we would usually just use whatever is on the dipstick of the Chevelle on blocks in the front yard. Just kidding, I hate it!)
1 large yellow onion, grated
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb carrots, diced
1/2 lb celery, diced
Heat oil in a dutch oven (mine is 7 quarts I think), sweat those onions for a while, add garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook till soft.
Then I added enough water to cover the vegetables plus about 2 inches, and a large large handful of chopped parsley. I basically used the whole bunch I had, minus the 6 TBS I used in the meatballs the night before. I added salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for an hour or two in hopes that it would taste all right without adding chicken broth.
Then when it tasted broth-y enough, I added
1 lb of tiny star shaped pasta
two bunches of chopped Swiss chard
and brought to a boil, and cooked till pasta was soft. I removed several portions at this point, and stirred in
1 qt chicken broth
with the burner on low till heated through. Sadly, the vegetarian didn’t make it till late and the portion I set aside for her was forgotten in a tupperware container in my fridge. Sheba, if you’re out there, it’s at home and waiting for you.
Other activities included Valentine crafting, and listening to my hastily thrown together mix of love songs repeat itself over and over until everyone wanted to kill themselves. The highlight was, as always, the company. It was so nice for us to come out of our cave for a few minutes, even though we were technically still in our cave. Next year I will try to arrange for more blood, nudity and rough trade though just to keep it fresh.
Happy Valentines Day!