“This is so good.”
“Mmmm. I just want to crawl into the bowl and take a nap.”
“You could use a peanut for a pillow.”
“Omg, yes. And a cilantro leaf for a blanket.”
“And I’d go to take a forkful and you’d be on the fork, snoozing.”
“And I’d be all, ‘Don’t eat me, Martha! It’s me, your friend! I live here!'”
“And I’d pick you up by the collar of your shirt and set you down by my plate.”
“Yes. Because that’s what friends do. They do not eat their friend who has been mysteriously shrunken and trying to sleep in their delicious lunch.”
I know, I know. You’re all, “A salad? Really, Twix Tart?”
LISTEN. We’re getting married in a few weeks, okay? And by we, I mean Nicole is getting married and I’m just squealing and clapping and doing a lot of obnoxious question-asking at inopportune moments, and also pestering her about recipes when she’s knee-deep in wedding details.
So, yes. A salad. A delicious, healthy, visually stunning salad. There’s something so Thai about this salad. Lime. Peanuts. Mango. Cilantro.
When Nicole suggested this recipe from this month’s Bon Appetit, I had already used the same grain-salad guide to riff on a Roasted Tomato Quinoa Salad, which was on full display this week in our Facebook Group as a part of my Day of Cooking Crazy where I made way, way too many things last Sunday and began to seriously question my mental health.
But. Anyway. That guide is great. It should be a no-brainer to take a handful of grains, add a zesty vinegarette, add some protein and some fruit and veggies, some nuts here and there, and call it a day. But sometimes you need to see it all spelled out in just the right way.
Black Rice Salad with Mango and Peanuts
1/4 Cup of fresh lime juice, to taste
2 TBsps of vegetable oil
1 TBsp of fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam; optional)
2 Cups of black rice (preferably Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice)
2 Just-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 Cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1 Cup of finely chopped red onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1/2 Cup of unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
6 Scallions, thinly sliced
2 Jalapeños, seeded, minced
1. Oranges: Remove peel and bitter, white pith from oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch juices and using a small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes over bowl to release any juices. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; reserve orange segments.
2. Add 1/4 cup of lime juice, oil, and fish sauce (if using) to bowl with orange juice; whisk to blend. Set dressing aside.
3. Bring rice and 2 and 3/4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
5. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Spread out rice on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with dressing, and season lightly with salt; let cool.
6. Place mangoes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
7. Add rice and toss gently to combine.
8. Season lightly with salt and more lime juice, if desired.
“I just love you so, so much.”
“I love you too, Sug.”
“I’m so glad, Honey. One more thing though, if I may.”
“Yes, Love Muffin?”
“Now, you know I love you, right?”
“Well, you’ve got about a half a pound of butter on your face right now. Puddin’ Pop.”
I will admit, I’m feeling a little cracked out right now.
For one thing, I am old. For another, I went to a midnight showing of The Muppets movie last night. I got home late, crawled into bed, woke up to a sick dog and I’ve been in the kitchen ever since. I’m not going to lie- if you told me tomorrow was St. Patrick’s Day, I very well may believe you.
A quickie recipe for you today as you’re scrambling around for last-minute touches to your fantastic Thanksgiving feast (unless you’re not in America and tomorrow is, simply, Thursday. This recipe still works.) Two things you’re likely to have on hand- butter and honey. Combine them, spoon the lot into a little mason jar or shiny bowl, and serve them with your biscuits, your cornbread or a leftover crescent roll. It’s little touches like these that let the people you love know that you love them- that you think they’re special and deserving of these little moments of surprising sweetness. Love is in the details.
We’re thankful for you this year.
Happy Thanksgiving from Some Kitchen Stories.
3/4 Cup of butter, room temperature
1/4 Cup of honey
1. Mix butter and honey in a small bowl until smooth.
2. Store in refrigerator. Or drop onto a piece of plastic wrap, roll up and store cold for a few days until chilled. Slice into patties.
“Aggie! Step on it for God’s sake!”
“It’s this car! This stupid car!” Aggie shouted back. They were put-putting along the main road in one of Sylvia’s antique cars and the blasted thing barely tipped over at twenty-five miles per hour.
Still, the little tin can had cost her a fortune. Sylvia scowled and clutched her sunglasses as the wind threatened to snatch them off her face. “We wouldn’t be in this thing,” she shouted back to Aggie as they zipped, or puttered, through the open air, “if you hadn’t driven Priscilla into a damn mailbox!”
“I told you, Eduardo was driving!” Aggie had a death grip on the giant wheel. She looked the same way she did when she piloted the boat around the marina. “Why are we going to the diner?” she shouted.
“It’s a restaurant.” Sylvia waved gaily to a farmer on his tractor. So charming, she thought with gritted teeth, and tried to ignore the way the idiot country boy shook his head at her.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Sylvia screamed back and this time, the pain shot through her head at the same time a gale-force wind took her amber sunglasses. “Stop! STOP!”
Aggie wrenched the wheel to the right and the little red toy shot off the road and into the dirt, which clouded up around them. Sylvia seized her throat with her slim hands and gagged. “My god, are you trying to kill us?”
Aggie was breathing heavily and as the dust settled, she started to laugh. Sylvia stared at her. “What is wrong with you? We could’ve been killed!”
“We were going five miles a hour,” Aggie gasped out, laughing. “We couldn’t even kill a gopher at that speed.”
Sylvia shook her head and adjusted the scarf that was barely keeping her head on her neck. “You’ve lost it, Agatha. You’ve completely lost it. Well, I hope you can get yourself together long enough to go back and find my sunglasses!”
That shut her up. Aggie sighed. “I told you not to wear them in the convertible. This happens every time.”
“Yes, well,” Sylvia smiled sweetly. “You’re always so good at finding them. Hurry up, will you?” She nudged her maid off the death trap and back towards the field where her amber babies had skittered off like a diamond-encrusted tumbleweed.
“First, you say we’re in a hurry to get to the diner,” Aggie muttered. “And now we’re making pit stops.”
“It’s a restaurant, you old bag,” Sylvia leaned back in the leather upholstered chair and sighed. It had rained that morning. The air was still damp and smelled like manure and wet grass. Her slacks were already prickled with mud from the road. Sylvia groaned over the linen, though it was slight when compared to her current predicaments.
Like her sunglasses. And the child that had suddenly appeared. The child with her last name.
The one she’d tried so hard to forget.
Nicole has left me.
I know- this is devastating. Ok, ok. So, look, she went to visit her family in Pennsylvania. And clean out the family barn she intends to get married in. And cook things with her mother and send me photos. Ok, so it’s not devastating. But it’s sad, you guys. We no longer work together! She got a new job! It’s the end of an era. A very short era. One that involved chocolate.
Still, we mustn’t fret or be dramatic. We must soldier on! And we must tackle that summer zucchini harvest! That little army of zucchs has been slowly mobilizing in your backyard, hearty and weather-resistant little bastards. They need to be stopped before they take over the whole house! We will not stop fighting! Never!
But first, we eat!
Grilled Zucchini with Parmesan
From Nicole: We used zucchini from our garden. You slice them up and then lightly coat them with olive oil mixture. Mixture is: some olive oil, crushed garlic, garlic powder, & Italian seasoning. Then you just place them on the grill & grill for about 5 min a side. Then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over them as soon as you take them off the grill and then eat. Delicious!
Sylvia Mathers awoke to the sound of music.
It was tinkling and light, just as she preferred all of life’s things, so why did it seem to stab her in the brain stem? Sylvia groaned and when she rolled over, silk sheets crinkling around her, she remembered all too clearly why she felt like death.
Her party. So much fabulousness. She grimaced. Too much champagne. She fumbled for her phone and squinted at the screen, not comprehending why it was black for a good, long minute. With a sigh, she ripped the eye mask off her head. Every damn morning.
The restaurant. Sylvia scowled. What disaster could possibly warrant her attention at such an ungodly hour.
They could wait. With tremendous effort, Sylvia sat up and jabbed her impeccably manicured nails into the keys of her phone, hit send. Collapsed back into her eight pillows with a sigh.
In her opinion, it took Aggie far too long to grace the door of her suite. “You called, mistress?” Aggie was painfully short, with a shock of curly dark hair and bead-like eyes. She called her things like “mistress” and “madame” when she was in a snit about something.
“I texted. Yes.” Sylvia let out a rumbling sigh and tapped her fingers against her slim stomach. “Help me,” she whimpered. The pain. Insufferable.
“There are pills on the dresser.”
Her head shot up so fast that one of her false eyelashes fluttered off her face. “Ah.” Sylvia grabbed at the aspirin and unscrewed the bottle of sparkling water, guzzling both fast and remembering, in a flash, the way she’d tipped back that last flute.
Feeling at last like she was on the way to feeling at least a little more human, she slid back on her bed and leaned up against the pillows. When she arched one slim eyebrow at Aggie, the response was instant- the small woman tottered over and adjusted the pillows until they cupped her thin frame perfectly. Sylvia eyed her maid. “What’s wrong with your face?”
Aggie looked affronted. “I beg your pardon-“
Sylvia waved a hand. “Oh, you know what I mean. You look irritated. Why? Bring me my mirror please.”
Aggie shook her head. “You might want to stay up here for a while. It’s going to take some time to get the house right again after last night.”
“Well, forgive me for having a party. I didn’t realize it would give you actual work to do, how inconsiderate of me.” She brightened as Aggie handed her the antique mirror. It had belonged to her mother, who was perfect in every way and so the mirror was too. Her expression faded slightly as she took in her appearance.
Without a stitch of makeup and that godforsaken light that was slipping through her heavy curtains, she was looking quite… ragged. There was no other way to put it. Sylvia frowned at the graying curls of reddish hair that were sticking out in all directions. Her creamy white skin, always her strongest feature as her nose lacked “character” and her thin lips were indistinct, was dreadfully lined. She would need another session with Seamus immediately, she thought. A few herbal remedies and one of his little rituals and she’d be tight and fit in no time.
She wasn’t going to inject her face with those ridiculous chemical concoctions. Only aging, desperate women did such things. But a few Eastern remedies always righted the wrongs.
Aggie sighed. “You should eat something. Here. I brought it from downstairs.”
Sylvia glanced down at the plate of limp appetizers and blanched. “You’re joking.”
“There’s nothing left in the house!” Aggie replied, exasperated. “That French friend of yours thought it would be funny to cook with everything in the refrigerator. So here. Some of his ‘Summer Mix.'” She nudged the little corn and tomato concoction closer to her. It, at least, looked faintly appetizing. Sylvia’s stomach rumbled. She ignored it. “Oh, and someone from the diner called for you,” Aggie added.
“It’s a restaurant,” Sylvia mumbled. “Why are they calling? What’s happening?” She scowled past the plate and at her own phone, the voicemail light blinking red.
Aggie eyed her. “What?” Sylvia asked. She narrowed her eyes. “Out with it, Aggie. What did they want?”
“Someone’s at the diner asking for you. Pet-pet something.”
“Pet something?” Sylvia didn’t bother trying to hide her horror. “Pet what? What?”
“Her name. It was something with Pet. And her last name was like yours, mistress.”Aggie’s eyes were sharp, judging. It was the same expression she’d had when Sylvia had sat on Monsieur Ralphio’s lap the night before.
“What? That’s-” Sylvia stopped. “You’re certain? That’s what they said?” She had no family. No parents, no relatives at all. Just an ex-husband who was dead, of which he deserved nothing less, the bastard. There was no one.
Except. But no. It couldn’t be. Could it?
Sylvia swallowed, her mouth dry. The pain wasn’t gone, not by a longshot, but for the time being she ignored that too and swung out of bed. “Get my clothes. Get my things. Now, Aggie.”
She needed a drink.
Why are simple things so good? The mind, it boggles.
To make this simple salsa, boil some ears of corn until tender and then shave them off the cob into a giant bowl. Chop up some ripe cherry tomatoes, some red onion, an avocado. Mix together some olive oil and lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Tear some cilantro and chop, sprinkle over the lot. Stir.
Grab some chips or toast up a sliced baguette in the oven and let guests (or a starving pair of writer & photographer) scoop fresh, summery, buttery corn salsa on top. Eat. Sounds simple but sometimes these things need to be said.
To our new friends: Hello! Welcome. We’re happy to have you here. We’ve noticed you seem to enjoy odd little baked concoctions like Craptastic S’more Cookies and Spinster Chocolate Cake– tell us what else you’d like us to make by joining our Some Kitchen Stories Facebook Group. Share links, tell us what we should make, suggest character names and genres for our stories, talk to like-minded people about the joy of a handful of sugary, butter-dripped popcorn and salsa that sings. Nobody knows your heart like we do.