Sunday, June 07, 2009

V is for Vignettes

Two weeks ago, ECG and I went for a walk around the corner from our house and into the canyon. On our return, we ran into a couple on horseback searching for a runaway horse. Apparently, another rider had been out with a friend, dismounted, then on the remount dislodged the saddle, startling her horse. The horse took off without the rider, but with all the tack, and has not been seen since. This horse has been missing for two weeks. Two weeks! Was the horse stolen? Was the horse eaten by bears or mountain lions? Did the horse get its bridle caught in a tree and inadvertently hang itself? Each of these is a very real possibility. I live 11 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, but events like these make me feel that we're still part of the Wild West.


There are many benefits of occasional meet-ups with people who are as garden dorky as yours-truly. Here is one:

This morning, a man well into his eighth decade, but none the slower for it, responded to complaints about gophers. He said, "Here's what you do. You take the cat hair, or the dog hair, or whatever pet hair you have around, and cut it up real fine. Then you sprinkle it into the holes you find around the yard. When that male gopher gets looking around, sniffing at that hair, he's sure to bring some of it home to the nest on him. His lady gopher is going to take one sniff of him, ask him what the hell he's doing with someone else's hair all over him, and kick him out of the nest. No man in the nest, no babies, no gopher problem. Easy as that."


A few weeks ago, a friend of ECG's held a limoncello making party. Although he lives smack dab in the middle of the city, he's got a lemon tree out back, and has more lemons that he could possibly use himself. So, he picked half of them, asked all his friends to bring a liter of Everclear or Vodka (after making it myself a couple times now, I prefer Everclear over vodka for a cleaner lemon flavor), and threw a party. Imagine the scene: a room full of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and English voices swimming through air rich with the scent of hundreds of lemons being simultaneously zested by happy people. Several party-goers arrived hoping it was a limoncello drinking party, their eyebrows raised and curling lips expectant, but, when discovering that the limoncello wouldn't be ready to drink for a few months, had faces that melted into disbelief. A few bottles of wine and beer sufficed for those who were disappointed; however, most of us were drunk on the lemon-oil-rich-air. My hands were lemony-beautiful even the next day.


In the school hallway the other day, I nearly ran into a former student, one who is days away from graduation, without recognizing her. Her shiny black hair, once long enough to nearly reach her butt, was gone, replaced by a tousled bob. "Your hair!" I gasped, "You look beautiful, but I almost didn't know it was you." She looked at me steadily with her huge smile, and she said the most perfect words: "I donated it."

Every day, my students teach me how to live.


Coffee Brined Grilled Chicken Legs

Adapted from Phil Lempert's Supermarket Guru, a recipe site I found while searching online for an interesting brine. Serves 2.

Save some of the stories from the week, and while you grill on the back patio with a friend or lover, tell the stories slowly and with luxurious detail. Relax, sip something yummy, and enjoy the fact that grilling doesn't happen immediately. Then, devour these smoke-infused juicy legs with grilled corn and braised chard.

You will need:
2 shots of good espresso
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon each of whole mustard seeds and whole peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
3 cups water
2 whole chicken legs (thighs attached)

To prepare the chicken:
In a large shallow bowl, mix together the espresso, salt, sugar, and spices. Ad the water and lemon slices, and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Place the chicken legs in the mixture, making sure they're fully covered by the brine. If you need to, you can place a plate over them to press them into the liquid. Refrigerate for three hours, turning, if you need to, once to make sure all sides get adequate "brinage."

Prepare your grill, and cook over medium heat until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the legs, and the meat is smoky and rich.


pam said...

I've been wanting to try making limoncello. Was it difficult?

Anonymous said...

Pretty, pretty picture.

There's a lovely older Serbian woman who lives a couple of blocks away. She's the one who told me to plant garlic cloves between my crops to keep the bugs away.

Kale for Sale said...

I loved the vignettes. They are how life is really lived. In bits and pieces, here and there, but held together inside of us in some crazy way that makes them one long continuous story. Thank you. This was exactly the inspiration I needed this morning.

Wendy said...

That horse is going to keep me up tonight. Shall soothe myself with thoughts of your student. What a selfless girl.

Christina said...

Pam: It is so, so, so very easy. I have a recipe for it in my recipe archives. The hardest part is doing all the zest grating!

AH: Thank you. And thank you also for the lovely Serbian woman. I can see her in my mind's eye.

Kale: You are most certainly welcome. Any time.

Wendy: Isn't it horrible and fascinating? And that girl--she's remarkable in so many ways.

June said...

I love advice from experienced gardeners. We have woodchucks here in Maine (the bane of my garden), and I'm wondering if we could stir up some jealousy in that burrow? Thanks for sharing!