Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's Been a Great Year

Yesterday was G and my first wedding anniversary.


It boggles the mind how quickly that year has flown.

Really, over the last three years since he proposed, our lives haven't changed much. We are still friends with almost all of the same people (thank G-d). Our parents and other relatives are still healthy and living their lives. He has the same job, and I still don't have one. (haha) We still live in the same apartment, with the same cat, and the same rented parking space.

What's changed? I have a new car, I became a Massage therapist, and I got a short haircut. No small things, but they seem so external, so incidental, next to the deeper realities of Life.

Last Saturday, G and I spent the night at the nice little hotel where he proposed to me on Valentine's Day, 2006. We like that place because the restaurant never disappoints. Fabulous, creative food, divine wines, and sumptuous coffee in the morning. The hotel itself is just convenient. The bar doesn't suck either.

We were home by Sunday, but Monday was our actual anniversary, and I just couldn't let it pass like any other day. One year ago on February 23rd, in the middle of a blizzard, on top of a skyscraper, surrounded by our best friends and beloved family... this anniversary deserves to be honored.

One year is supposed to be the "paper" anniversary. I'd already bought toilet paper so I was at a loss. (haha.)

Instead of something in a box, I made us a nice dinner. He likes my cooking, and is always saying he prefers experiences rather than material things. So, I kicked things up a notch, and put together a sort of Italian/French "experience" - angel hair with white wine clam sauce, a big green salad, and some fancy baked appetizers. For dessert I splurged a bit at the grocery store, and put together a fruit and cheese plate, something we often order in nice restaurants. I had a bottle of German white wine that went perfectly with everything. G was very satisfied.

I did get him a sappy card, and my parents sent us a lovely card, as well as a printed email greeting from a friend, so I set all that up on the table so he could see it when he got home. I also gave him a cheesy dark chocolate rose, because we're silly like that.

I fell asleep curled up against him on the couch, the cat purring on his chest, the purrs resonating through his ribcage into mine.

I can't believe I fell asleep.

Tonight... I think I owe him one more gift.

My menu:

Angel Hair pasta with Victoria brand White Clam sauce.
I cheated here and went with pre-packaged foods. But this brand of clam sauce is the best I've had, it's better than most homemade sauces I've had in people's homes. It's very light instead of the oily pungency I usually get. The clams are juicy and fresh, and there are big slices of garlic floating about. One 12-ounce jar was perfect for 1/2 pound of pasta.

Grandma's Green Salad
My grandmother, and my mother, and now I, have been making simple salads for years. We seldom deviate from this ingredient list:

Leaf lettuce, ripped into small (about 1 to 2 inches) pieces. NOT Romaine, no field greens, buy a head of green or red leaf lettuce. Iceberg will do in a pinch. Use pre-bagged greens only if there is NOTHING else available and you're having a salad emergency. But really, how badly do you need a salad? Wait until the good lettuce shows up.
Carrot shavings. NOT baby carrots, not chunks of carrots, not julienned slices. Use the peeler to get thin shavings.
raw Red onion, to taste. I use about 1/8th onion per person.
white mushrooms, sliced
cucumber, ALL PEEL REMOVED, sliced into rounds
tomato, seeds removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
balsamic vinegar, a healthy pour. I prefer red, but some of my cousins think white is higher-class. They're really pretentious.
EVOO, aka Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, just two tablespoons. Don't just pour it on, too much oil will kill the light freshness of the salad. My family, as a general rule, doesn't splurge on the super-pricey imported first press oils. Bertolli is fine.
Dried basil and oregano. I pour it into my palm, crush it between my hands, and sprinkle it on AFTER tossing the salad with the oil and vinegar.
Salt and pepper, just a few shakes.

The trick is to layer the veggies first, then toss in stages. Use a huge mixing bowl. Later the lettuce on the bottom, then the rest of the chopped, peeled, de-seeded, shaved, and otherwise made wonderful veggies. Then BEFORE TOSSING, sprinkle the oil and vinegar. Now toss WELL. try to coat everything. Now add the basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss Again.

PCP (Prosciutto-wrapped, Cheese-stuffed Prunes)
I found this recipe on the internet somewhere.
The cheese I used - which was DIVINE - was St. Andre, available at my stop-n-shop for about $9 a wedge, which isn't a lot of cheese. It's also available in a round tub, even more expensive. It's SO worth it though. It's a very creamy, semi-soft, rich, dreamy creamy cheese. If you wanted a stronger flavor, you could use actual cream cheese, or goat cheese, or brie. Even bleu, feta or gorgonzola might be nice.

I bought extra lean, extra-thin sliced prosciutto ham for this. A little salty meat goes a long way, so don't use too much. The meat should be sliced so thin you can almost see through it.

Cut the meat into strips just long enough to wrap around a stuffed prune with a little overlap, so you can hold it closed by spearing it with a toothpick. (I know what you're thinking. DO NOT try this with bacon, that meat is WAY too strong, and will render your prunes and cheese untastable.)

I made four prunes per person.

Soak your prunes in a cup of boiling water for about 20 minutes, like they were tea bags. I let them soak while I made the pasta and washed and ripped my salad lettuce. This plumps and softens the prunes, making them easier to open and stuff.

Hold a prune in your hand and look for the end. Squeeze it a little, and feel where the pit used to be. use a small paring knife to cut just one side of the prune open, so you can spread it out. This may take a little practice, but hey, you're just going to wrap it in ham anyway, so a little learning curve is ok.

Stuff the prune with a dab of cheese. I used a lot, so much that the prune barely closed around it. But you have to really get the prune closed, or the cheese will leak out in the oven. wrap the prune around the cheese.

Wrap the ham around the cheese by putting the prune seam-side down in the middle of the ham strip. Wrap the strip around the prune, and spear the prune where the ham overlaps with a toothpick. This will not only help hold it together while baking, but prevents your diners from having to eat with their fingers.

Bake in the oven on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees, for about 15 minutes.

If you're having a party, you can serve these all on one plate and pass them around. Since I was having an intimate dinner for two, I portioned them onto individual small plates.

My Dessert Cheese Plate had more of the St. Andre cheese, some Port Salut, another semi-soft cheese with a pleasant swiss-like tang, and another french cheese called St. Albray that we didn't like. Given it's brownish hue, I thought it would have a smoky flavor, but instead tasted... well, it was disgusting. G and I both wondered if it might taste better melted into soup, or with a different wine, but we just hated it. In retrospect, and after doing some research into this cheese, I'm wondering if I didn't get a soured wedge. In any event, this actually made the whole experience more fun.

I served black seedless grapes, blackberries, and strawberries on the plate, and a few lightly salted melba toasts. I also whipped some heavy cream, and we dipped the fruit in that too, feeling decadent. We both prefer our whipped cream pure, without added sugar, especially when we're dipping sweet fruits into it.

Our Rhinehessen Liebefraumilch German white wine was a gift from a friend. I've been saving it. It's basically a less-expensive Spatlase. It's fruity and light, and it went especially well with our appetizers and cheese plate. It's reasonably priced to boot, a modest, friendly wine. Our bottle came from the Weber winehouse, you can probably find it in mid-range wine stores.

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