Cabbage and Carrots

A friend of mine used to decry what she called “inefficient frugality”–that office practice of inexplicable cost-cutting measures like monitoring Post-It note consumption or shaking the last tiny bit out of every toner cartridge. Fred and I practice a version of this called “erratic frugality.” We’ll spend $5 a pound for a locally raised, cage-free chicken without batting an eye but freeze up at the prospect of shelling out more than $3 on a bottle of shampoo.

Lately, though, our desire to escape from the Jerry Springer show that is our neighborhood has spurred our efforts to economize. These people aren’t kidding around–today, for instance, I discovered that the murder rate in our neighborhood is 7 times the national average.

Thank goodness we’ve put an offer on a house, in a neighborhood where the murder rate is only twice the national average. (Please don’t tell my landlord. It’s a short sale so she probably won’t lose us as tenants until 2015.)

To afford this we’ll need to scrape together about $10,000 extra dollars a year, and the first step will entail reducing our total monthly food bill (including eating out) from somewhere north of $1,200 a month to a more reasonable $900 or so. Plus, we both still need to lose weight.That should be easy because Atlanta was recently voted the 18th healthiest city in the country. I’m not sure how our neighborhood’s murder rate factors in there, but perhaps the joggers in Grant Park help balance that out.

So, to help our budget and improve our chances of survival, we are eating cabbage. There’s a reason the poor eat a lot of it. It’s high in fiber, vitamin C and calcium, and it tastes pretty darn good. And the smell may deter the murderers.

Joking aside, I love this dish. The herbes de Provence and carrots lend a sweetness to the cabbage, and it’s tender without being soggy and drab. It’s lovely as a side with chicken or pork.

Cabbage and Carrots

1 tbps. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise and sliced into thin strips, the strips cut in half1 clove garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced lengthwise into thin strips, the strips cut into pieces about 3″ long
1/2 head cabbage, sliced lengthwise in strips about 1/4 inch wide, the strips cut in thirds
About 1/2 cup chicken broth, or enough to cover the bottom of a 10″ skillet
Generous tbsp. of herbes de Provence
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in 10″ skillet on medium high heat. Saute onions in oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic carrots, and herbes de Provence, stir, and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook until cabbage is sweet and tender, 15 – 20 minutes.


Fred and I sorely miss many things about Atlanta, but aside from friends and family, what inspires the greatest sadness and deepest sense of loss is the Dekalb Farmers Market. I mentioned it briefly in a post last year on this blog, but then I did not fully appreciate its splendor. We failed to understand that finding whole bean Ethiopian Yrgicheff (how DO you spell that?), Columbian, Sumatran, and Kenyan coffee at under $6 a pound was not something you found every day. We balked at Hawaiian Kona coffee that cost $13 a pound. We took it for granted that we could buy fresh wild caught Alaskan king salmon, Chilean sea bass, halibut, and sashimi grade tuna for under $15 a pound. And cheese. And grass-fed beef, and quail, and free-range chicken, and goat, and many vegetables I’d never seen in my life.

Now I stand, heart palpitating, at the few places where we can find these things here in Durham, wondering how a 30% salary increase could disappear so quickly. Instead of standing next to immigrants from Ethiopia, Mexico, India, and Russia, poring over inexpensive “speciality” items together, I’m now pointy-toe-to-Birkenstocked-toe with Volvo-driving, self-righteous Chapel Hill liberals who are gushing over $22 a pound Hawaiian Kona and free-range local chickens that cost $23 each. I am not joking–TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS FOR A FOUR POUND CHICKEN. I don’t think there’s a font size, or exclamation points, that will adequately convey my shock and horror.

(Side note: I still won’t vote for a Republican.)

Six Feet Under

We have cooked hardly anything lately–we are buried in some potentially life-changing decisions. Good decisions, but ones requiring a lot of thought.

So–we’ve gone out nearly every night. On Tuesday, we visited Six Feet Under, a seafood restaurant located across from Oakland Cemetary. (The name alone is worth the visit.)

The food there varies wildly in quality. The catfish is wonderful, as are the catfish tacos, and you can’t go wrong with their steamed seafood and raw oysters. (Until you get that stray raw oyster with salmonella or E. coli or whatever it is that Fred got in London on our honeymoon, but as the mantra of Six Feet Under says, “Life Is Short. Enjoy Every Day of Livin’ It.”) The seafood quesadilla includes overcooked spinach that just ruins it. I don’t care for the okra, which is fried whole and is too large and stringy.

But you don’t really go to Six Feet Under for the food. You go there on a warm night to sit on the rooftop deck and look out over the dead, and be glad to be alive, and be glad that you have a wonderful husband who brings Kierkegaard with him to a restaurant, just in case.

Lardy Yellow Yard Sale

According to one news report, the pollen count reached 5,937 particles per cubic meter of air yesterday–apparently the second-highest on record. (Apparently 120 is an “extremely high” count.) Even I have begun to feel it.

So has my dad’s 1979 Chevy Big 10 Bonanza, which I am now driving after my stuff was evicted from my mother’s office in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. Its color has migrated from dark green to a kind of baby-puke yellow (Fred’s description)–a baby-puke yellow that now blankets nearly everything in sight.

The only good thing about all this is that no rain is forecast for tomorrow’s massive yard sale of the evicted stuff.

As for the lard–a friend’s son-in-law comes from a family that still butchers their own hogs. (See my comments to Paul in yesterday’s post.) We will be making biscuits soon and will be reporting results!

Sniffle. Sniffle.

And to top it all off: Louise and Cleo are scheduled for THEIR vet trip today. Catalina is the pee culprit, with a bladder infection (we think). I get to pill a cat every day for the next two weeks.


Satan’s Computer and Poached Perch

Due to various extenuating circumstances, such as the Satan-possessed technology in our house that was miraculously recovered through the noble efforts of Linksys Wireless and BellSouth Tech Support, staffed by Marvin I-sound-like-the-Paranoid-Android and a very nice man I know only as Charlie, the following post has been delayed until just now. In the interim all hope of calabasa soup was abandoned in favor of dinner out, which consisted of a martini, wine, and some food. Fred’s art show was also put up and looks great. Now he just needs to sell everything in it to make less than a convenience store manager. But we are not bitter.

Moving along . . . .

Fred and I went to the Farmer’s Market yesterday to lay in our supply of vittles for the week. In passing I should add that the Farmer’s Market is not what you think. There are no overall-clad, wizened men in baseball caps sitting outdoors on the backs of their pickup trucks, or farmers of varied national origin sitting in booths behind piles of carrots, corn, and tomatoes. I have yet to see a single farmerly person there. It’s basically a warehouse with vegetables, meat, bread, dairy, wine, and beer, but no household products (toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, hair spray, etc.). The Market’s motto is “Bringing the World of People and Food Together,” and certainly it has brought me in contact with many foods I had never met before.

Friday’s new acquaintance was calabasa, which is a pumpkin-like squash with a green rind from the Caribbean/Mexico. I’m going to make a soup with it with some hot Italian sausage—we’ll see how it goes.

When we got home I scooped the seeds and flesh out of the calabasa (it was already halved), put some olive oil in it, and stuck it in the oven at 350 (which in my oddly slow oven means 400) for what probably should have been about 30 minutes to an hour but which ended up being closer to 3 after Fred and I started watching a Bob Newhart DVD and lost track of time and I started to notice a smell from the kitchen.

Luckily calabasa appears to be quite a hardy or perhaps hard to cook food, so I still don’t know how long you should really allow to prepare it. But after 3 hours in the oven it was soft, with only a little burned juice that had leaked out around the edges, and it tasted pretty good—like pumpkin—so I scooped out the cooked flesh and put it in the fridge for later.

I also washed the flesh off the seeds and roasted them this morning, but that experiment did not end so happily. I have a yummy recipe for spiced nuts and thought it might be good to use the spice mix for the calabasa seeds—oil, cumin, cayenne, sugar, and salt. It seems, though, that to get the oven hot enough to roast the seeds you end up with blackened sugar. Next time I’ll just use salt and olive oil to roast and add the spice mix afterward.

As for last night, we had Poached Perch. The idea came from a very briefly viewed Internet recipe for poaching mackerel. My only memory was that it had garlic and lime juice and that it was vaguely foreign. When I started cooking it last night the garlic and lime juice made me think, “Mexican,” which then led to thoughts of adding chipotle peppers that were mercifully ended by the sudden recollection that GINGER was the big thing involved in the Internet version. So I went Asian with the whole thing. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Saute 1 medium chopped onion in about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-iron skillet with a cover
  2. Mince 4 cloves garlic.
  3. Salt and pepper fish in casserole dish. (We had 4 perch filets, but any white fish would do.
  4. Mix in a bowl (oh, lessons learned—do not just start dumping things on the fish but mix first) about ¼ cup fresh lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes to taste, grated ginger (2 tbsp??—I use the “fresh” grated ginger you get in a jar, not the dried stuff, as if there is some real food snobbery in that), and a few dashes of soy sauce. Make a little more than you think you’ll need and save a teaspoon or so for the salad dressing below.
  5. Put a little water to cover the bottom of the pan (maybe about ¼ inch) and bring to boil. Nestle fish in the bottom, turn to simmer, cover and cook until a knife placed on the fish goes down into the fish without much pressure—maybe 5 – 10 minutes. (I do remember the knife tip from the Internet recipe.)

I served this with a light salad consisting of Boston red lettuce and a dressing consisting of about 2-3 tbsp sesame oil and about a tsp of the above mix. I salted the lettuce after dressing it.

Fred and I were quite happy with this and ate two filets each while watching Bob Newhart.

I’m rightfully disturbed that I am now over 40 and spending Friday nights watching 1970s TV.