The patience of assurance

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne

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A chive bloom and small stinging fly / Julie Cook / 2015)

The phone rang 4 times Saturday.
It was Dad, all 4 times, wanting to tell me the things he had previously told me in the previous calls. Of which were reiterations and various renditions of what he’d told me throughout the week, throughout last week and the week before that.

So far today the phone has rung 3 times. . .all calls from Dad.

Today’s calls each consisted of different subject matters yet with familiar themes.
“When are you coming back?”
“Do I have new pills?”
“Well Dad, I was just there yesterday and I’ve got a few things I have to do here at home throughout the week, but if you need me I can come back today, tomorrow or when you’d like. . .”
And yes Dad, the Doctor gave you some new prescriptions but the nurse hasn’t brought them yet—so you don’t have to do anything yet.”
“Why do I need physical therapy?”
Do you remember your little fall last week?”
“I didn’t fall, I just kind of laid down on the floor”
Sigh
“A strange little green card came addressed to me in today’s mail, wonder what I’m suppose to do with it?”
“It’s the certified mail receipt from mailing in your tax payment Dad. . .and there’s nothing to do.”
Sigh
“Oh and what’s this paper that came today from the doctor about new pills?
“That sheet is from yesterday Dad and it’s just a recap of your visit with his notes about the new prescriptions which the nurse is going to pick up for you.
“I don’t have them here?”
No not yet Dad. . .”
Sigh

I found out a long long time ago to never pray or ask for patience.
Something about God having a sense of humor and the notion of being careful what one prays for. . .It seems that there are required, repetitive actions which are necessary in order to hone one’s patience. . .that being situations, often unpleasant, trying and tiring which in turn demand more and more of ones patience. Something about those repeated situations eventually helping to produce the requested end-result of patience.

Motherhood and teaching are both good places to practice the art of needing, requiring, polishing and honing patience. But be warned, neither are for the faint of heart.

My dad and his current world are working in tandem to polish and hone my skill of patience. I didn’t realize that I was in need of an update, a refresher course, an in-service or that I had inadvertently asked for some more patience in my life. I had rather thought that I was most full in that area. . .

Yet apparently not necessarily in the area of Dad’s current tremendous need for reassurance, with that coming from the one person he’s known the longest in his now ever shrinking world—-me.

I won’t talk about guilt or the associated guilt that is a often a by-product from ones need of assurance as this post is not about that. I do feel badly when he obviously has this need to have me as a constant presence in his world. Not that I’m not there with him in and out throughout each and every week, but when life and family here call upon me, it is never easy being in two places at once—but somehow motherhood was a good training ground for being stretched thin, the need for miraculous bilocation as well as the carrying of constant guilt. But as I say, all of that is for another post, another day. . .

This current need, resonating deeply in my dad, has my head and heart swirling with the thoughts and palpable feelings of my own need for reassurance.
Reassurance that reaches beyond my need from my family and friends. . .
It is to my constant need for that of my Heavenly Father, Abba, and of His endless reassurance.
For it is in Him that I find my resting place, my solace, my lifeline.

Just like a frightened child, who in the dark of night, continuously calls out to his / her parents for the reassurance of the parent’s protective presence, I too cry out to my Father in Heaven for the reassurance of His presence in my current uncertain world. . .

And just as sweet little piglet so eloquently expresses to Pooh, “I just wanted to be sure of you”, there is indeed something deep within us all that seeks the resting reassurance of presence.

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12:2

Pomodoro or Let’s get cooking with Cookie

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
― Isabelle Eberhardt

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(a bowl of our soon to be Tomato pudding)

Ahhh, Isabelle, I feel your pain.
When I think of summer, I think of gardens,
When I think of gardens,I think of tomatoes,
When I think of tomatoes, I think of Italy.
When I think of Italy, I think I want to run away.
When I think of running away to Italy, I think of food.
When I think of food in Italy, I think of pasta,
When I think of pasta, I think tomato, as in Pomodoro. . .

Wait a minute, What?!

That’s right, tomatoes plus Italy–as in all jumbled up together.
As they go hand in hand. . . like that whole peas and carrots thing.
And of course I probably think of bacon. . .who doesn’t think of bacon?
As in a good ol BLT—but this is not about that nor bacon, this is about Pomodoro, the humble tomato. . .

Today’s post is all about the abundance of summer tomatoes and what in the heck to do with them! Trust me, I’m feeling your pain. When the time has come and there is simply no one remaining on the planet to give away your excess crop to, as it seems as if family and friends are actually turning in the other direction when they see you coming. . .and the thought of letting the bumper crop die on the vine as it were, is totally and simply unacceptable. . .
it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get creative!

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And no I’m not talking about canning.
I don’t “can.”
And yes, I should go take a class at the Extension Agency or study some YouTube video, but the thought of creating botulism in my kitchen, then gifting it to others or welcoming it to the table some cold January night as we consume a tomato bisque made from a jar of the past summer’s canned tomatoes that I did something not right to, simply scares me. I’m thinking bio-terrorism in my kitchen and I for one do not wish to be on the CDC’s watch list.

So instead of botulism, we’re going to do a little number for those of you scouring the cooking blogs for something new and exciting in order to bring to the table on those meatless Monday’s, or terrific Tuesdays, etc, or even a little something special to offer along as a side dish to a scrumptious beef tenderloin. . .

Behold, the Savory Tomato Pudding à la Cookie

Yes, for those of you who would like a sweet version of this sort of thing, it is possible–I however prefer to have my tomato dishes remain relatively savory as in main course and not dessert.

We will start with what seems to be a million tomatoes.
Perhaps 10 decent sized tomatoes or perhaps 12 to 15 smaller ones.
First we need to remove the skin and seed these puppies
Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil
On the bottom of each tomato, cut an X
Put the tomatoes in the pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes.

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Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water as this stops the cooking process. At the X, the skin should now be easy to pull off. Peel off the skin then cut the tomatoes in half and working with your hands, squeeze out or scrape out the seeds. I know this is a pain but the seeds are bitter and will negatively effect the palate.

Using a loaf of a tuscan boule, Italian loaf, brioche or challah bread–cut away the crust and cut the bread into small cubes–you can always tear it into small pieces if you need to release any aggression.
Place the bread in a large bowl.

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Spray a casserole pan with Pam.

Next, gather some nice fresh herbs–basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, etc—whatever floats your boat— but basil is essential.
Slice and dice the herbs.

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You may notice that I actually use scissors to cut the chives into small pieces.

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Take an onion and dice it.

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In a saucepan heat a little olive oil with a few hot pepper flakes and a nice grind or two of pepper.

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Once the oil is heated and ready to sizzle, add the onions.
Stir until translucent.
Toward the end of cooking the onions add one or two cloves of minced garlic. Garlic has a tendency to burn and does not need to cook nearly as long as the onions. Add the garlic toward the end to heat it thoroughly before it has a chance to brown. Brown garlic = bitter.

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Now it’s time for our tomatoes.
Add tomatoes cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down.
(This is the same process I use to make my tomato sauce but I would be using a dutch oven, and I
would have also satued some celery and bell pepper, add some red wine, a bay leaf or two and cook
on a low simmer for about two hours—stirring periodically until the sauce thickens. . .)
We’re hoping to cook down 4 cups worth for our tomato pudding.

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I like to cook the tomatoes for about 30 minutes or even longer which will help to thicken the sauce a tad.
Continue stirring.
As the tomatoes are gently simmering, add about 4 TBL of brown sugar or maybe 3 TBL and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. I do not like my tomato pudding overtly sweet. Some receipes call for a full cup of sugar–the thought of such makes me a bit queazy —just enough to help heighten the natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes, you may also add a nice squeeze of a lemon as well as this will highlight the tomatoes nice acidity.

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Add the herbs toward the end of cooking because if you put them in too early and leave them in too long, they will become bitter–off setting the taste of our sauce.

As our tomatoes are cooking, take this time to break 4 large eggs in a large measuring cup with room enough to add 1 1/2 cups of half and half. Whisk until well blended.

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Now remove the tomato mixture from the heat and pour it over the bread crumbs. Stir to coat all the bread with the sauce. Let it sit for a while in order to allow the bread to absorb the juice of the tomato sauce.

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Next pour the egg and cream mixture into the bread and tomato mixture.
Add about a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Mix throughly and pour into your prepared casserole dish.
(you may certainly add more cheese into the body of the pudding and even get creative with the choice of cheese—I had debated on adding some fresh goat cheese but I refrained—my husband’s palate leans to the more simple whereas I dash toward the complex—naturally as it should be 😉 )
Sprinkle a mix of shredded cheddars or an Italian blend of cheese.

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Place in a preheated 350ᵒ oven for approximately an hour or until golden and puffy.
(I cooked mine for about 40 minutes in a convection oven)

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Oh so flavorful and satisfying!!!
The taste of the height of summer is on a plate!
Serve as a main as I did along with an accompaniment of wonderfully creamy rustic style grits (recipe to follow later) and for my husband who loves these, fried okra. You can forego the okra opting for a salad, or fresh green beans.

Molto Bene!
Mangiare!!

10 medium sized tomatoes—peeled and seeded
1 onion diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
a medium loaf of a rustic bread, crust removed and cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups half and half
4 large eggs
4 TBL brown sugar
splash of a good grade balsamic vinegar
squeeze of a lemon
salt
pepper
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
mix of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, rosemary)
Olive oil for sautéing onions (2 or 3 good sized tablespoons)
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (more if you prefer)
1 to 2 cups of shredded cheeses—colby jack, mozzarella, italian blend, cheddar—your call and choice–this may go in the casserole as well as a good coating on top
rectangle pan works best sprayed with PAM
Oven at 350ᵒ

and what does one do with all of that thyme on one’s hands…

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saute fresh chopped/ sliced white button mushrooms in a little olive oil and butter. Add fresh ground pepper, a glug of red wine, a couple of dashes of Worcestershire, a little beef broth, a spoonful of William Sonoma beef demi glace, garlic powder, a dash of sea salt…and a generous handful of chopped herbs–thyme, chives, rosemary…..
serve over the sauteed cubed sirloins from the locally sourced cow….bon appetite

Allium schoenoprasum

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The lowly chive. A boon to potatoes, pasta and salads. Tasty to eat, pretty to watch growing in the garden.
Boil petite new potatoes or cube larger ones. Drain potatoes and while hot, add butter or drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, add a handful of chopped chives, toss and enjoy.