Saturday, February 27, 2010
Enjoy It Because You Will Never Eat It Again.
I heard that from my dad a lot growing up. At least once a week. My father was the cook of the house. This worked out because he got home from work before my mom, so he would have dinner waiting for her every night. Pretty sweet deal for Mom.
As soon as I was old enough, I helped. It was my time with my dad. My father was extremely talented, and his favorite hobbies were woodworking and working on cars- interests I never adopted. Thankfully, he also loved to cook. My dad taught me that you don't leave the kitchen while you're cooking, so we'd hang out, passing each other to turn or to stir between the stove and griddle or the grill outside on the patio, and the whole time, we'd talk. He'd tell me stories, jokes, and probably worked a little harder than I remember trying to get me to share what was going on in my life. My dad and I were very close- I was a Daddy's girl for sure- but, he was my father, the man of the house. I saw him in that light almost the entire time that I knew him. The summer before he got sick- the summer before my senior year in college- was when something changed and we started becoming friends. A small change from just a father/daughter relationship- we started talking like adults talk to one another, you know? It makes me sad that we had so little time to work on that aspect of our relationship, but I am happy I got to see its start.
Many nights were simple- hamburgers with mac and cheese, french toast and sausage, grilled chicken and boiled potatoes (which we would smash on our plates with forks and load up with butter and sometimes creamed corn... wow, that sounds so good right now.) Other nights were slightly more labor intensive. A few of those meals I remember most are venison back straps coated in flour and crushed saltines and shallow fried- we fought over these. We would actually count them out to make sure we all had a fair share. Tomato and meat sauce from scratch, chili, steaks on the grill with these grilled half potato things my dad came up with... all good stuff.
But, about once a week we'd clear out the leftovers and my dad would turn them into something so delicious and perfect... and it was bitter sweet, because like he would say, you'd never eat it again. This was the good stuff... where he taught me to be creative and to take risks and to think about marrying different flavors together. He'd grab a couple pantry items, add it to whatever was hanging out in the fridge leftover, and suddenly we had a new dinner. I don't remember it ever being bad.
My father is a huge part of why I love to cook, and I find myself copying him on the leftover thing quite a bit. Much of the time when I am cooking something I am thinking about what I could turn it into the next day. Other times, my inspiration just comes when I open the fridge and just start taking stuff out.
This particular day, I'd had a really intense workout at the gym in the morning and had to be at work at 11:00 AM, so I wanted something hearty to stay with me throughout the day. A sandwich was in order. I had the onions from the other day, so I knew they would play a part. I also had some leftover seitan from fajitas I made a couple days prior. If you're not familiar with seitan, it's really just wheat gluten and makes a fantastic meat substitute. I buy Field Roast brand sausages a lot and my leftovers were of the Italian variety. I'm not saying it tastes like meat, it really doesn't, but you can use it like you would use meat.
I got out a slice of Ezekial bread, the seitan, and the onions, and threw it all in a dry non stick to heat up... now I needed the rest. Ah! A hard boiled egg! I always make a few extra when I need one and I made tuna salad last week. Good thinking. I also had Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese triangles. Done. Simple and hearty, this was going to kick ass.
I sliced the egg, spread the cheese on the bread when it was bit toasty and piled everything on top. Scott came over from his computer to ask where his was. Oops. I hadn't offered. My leftovers were only serving one. I gave him a bite of seitan with onions and hoped it would suffice. I also allowed him a bite of my masterpiece- it was the least I could do.
It was SO very good, I mean, really. The flavors just were perfect together. The cheese was creamy and egg sort of melded right into it. The seitan and onions had gotten a bit crisp when I warmed them up providing a nice mix of textures. This was a sandwich I will remember and I'm glad I enjoyed it, because I will probably never have it again.