THE WAY TO A MAN'S HEART & GOOD MOOD
Mr. Grumpy rolled out of the wrong side of the bed this morning (which means that he squished me in the process). He has been in a relatively exuberant mood lately, coming home every evening singing, joking around every morning as he is getting dressed, chasing a rambunctious Marty around the bedroom. Nice! But just one really horrible day at work followed hotly on its heels by one wrong word from a son and * zing * Mr. Crabby is back in town. What’s a girl to do?
Well, obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is cook. He is off in Paris for a day of meetings, so I have the time to prepare ahead without him popping in unexpectedly for lunch and crabbing about. Maybe I can give the countertops a couple of swipes in order to give the appearance of clean, iron the laundry and actually fold up and put away the ironing board, maybe, just maybe, have the computer off before he walks in the door (or maybe not). And have something tasty and heart-warming waiting on the table when he walks in the door.
And gotta make the man happy before the weekend, or he’ll spend Saturday and Sunday stomping around the house grumbling, throwing things away in one of his I’m-in-a-bad-mood cleaning frenzies, yelling crazy madman type things about his sons (some of which are actually true) and just being downright cranky and gruff. Jamie no like!
Truth be told, I would rather spend my weekend strolling with him hand-in-hand to the market, coming home and cooking with him, watching the strange and funny people scurry down the street below our front windows, chuckling to ourselves as we spot silly walks, look alikes or some of our favorite characters, picnicking with Marty in the vineyards Sunday morning, and ending the short respite from the rat race snuggling happily in front of a silly movie or an interesting documentary. I assume that any woman in her right mind would prefer the second scenario over spending the weekend with Sir Grumpiness of Crabby Kingdom.
So I turned to the old adage, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and hoped that it also worked with his sense of humor and overall happiness as well. Now don’t get me wrong; throughout the years, on our long slog together through time that we call marriage, he has proven himself to be the most loving, romantic, fun husband that ever existed, caring, sharing and all those things that we sing about. But every good man has his bad day, bringing home trouble from the office, a bad night’s sleep due to the college kids upstairs, letting worries weigh him down and, as most men do, he goes ballistic! It’s every woman for herself and dive for cover! And my only defense is food. So out come the cookbooks and I start planning my military strategy.
I wanted to make a meal, not too heavy, not too complicated, that I could prepare ahead of time and leave in the fridge as I am not sure what time he gets back tonight. I settled on a big pasta salad with some cubed smoked chicken (smoked for extra flavor) and lots of vegis thrown in, all tossed with this fabulous Parmesan dressing, the tangy fusion of a vinaigrette and a smooth, creamy mayonnaise. Summery in its mixture of grilled Mediterranean vegetables and Parmesan goodness, this salad is made with the ease of a throw-everything-in-except-the-kitchen-sink meal, whatever is left over, in the fridge, on the counter, whatever your mood, or simply follow the season. Oh, and no dessert; that he could take personally (“I told you that I needed to lose a few pounds, so stop all this baking!”).
Whew! A woman’s work is truly never done!
CREAMY PARMESAN DRESSING
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or to taste) – I give a generous grinding
1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
2 cloves garlic (about 1 ½ tsps) minced garlic
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup (85 ml) red wine vinegar
Whiz the egg in a blender, food processor or whisk by hand until light-colored and frothy, just starting to thicken.
Gradually add the oils, drizzling into the egg as you continue to whisk or blend, gradually creating a thick mayonnaise.
Add the salt and pepper, Tabasco, minced garlic and whisk together. Add the red wine vinegar and stir and, finally, whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese.
Pour the dressing, a bit at a time, over your salad and toss, adding just the right amount for your quantity of salad.
This Dressing is also perfect served with steamed artichokes; it is our favorite dipping sauce!
PASTA SALAD TO CHEER ANYONE UP
For 4 – 6 people
½ lb (250 g) dried pasta (fusilli, orecchiette, penne, pennette, maccheroni or similar)
2 leg-thigh sections smoked or roasted chicken
2 red peppers
1 small can corn
1 small jar artichoke hearts
4 ripe tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes
Or add any ingredients you please.
Cook the pasta until tender. Drain, run under cool water to stop the cooking process and drain again.
Roast, peel and slice the red peppers (once they are out of the oven, slip them hot into small plastic sandwich bags for a minute or two. The steam condenses and slips between the skin and the flesh, allowing you to lift the skin right off with the help of a small sharp knife).
Wash the zucchini, cut off the two ends and discard, then cut each zucchini in half. Slice each zucchini in slices, not too thick, not too thin, and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each with a bit of olive oil and grill under the burner until starting to brown and bubble.
Drain the can of corn. Drain the jar of artichoke hearts and slice into bite-sized chunks. Cut the chicken away from the bone, peel off and discard skin and cut the meat into chunks. Slice and cube the tomatoes or slice cherry tomatoes in halves.
Toss the pasta, chicken and all the vegetables together in a large serving bowl. Very large! Toss in a handful or two of the rocket.
Pour about half the Creamy Parmesan Dressing over the salad and toss well. Continue to add the dressing and tossing until you have the perfectly dressed salad.
Serve with bread and a nice glass of wine. And a wifely smile!
Whatever your sitcom, after a meal like this, there is always a happy ending!