Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Big Top is about to Come Down

And I thought I now had the time to resume this blog on a regular basis!
I assumed that the open house on our other property marked the end of that particular preoccupation. But the open house was too succesful. We had 3 offers, one of which was $125,000 over the asking price, a cash offer. So, of course, we accepted that one, but they wanted a 10 day close, so immediately we had to begin the process of de-staging and knocking out the punch-list of minor unfinished items that the new owners wanted done before the deal could be finalised. We also decided to host a cocktail party at the house on the final Monday before we turned over the keys for about 25 friends and family. My wife did most of the preparation over the weekend while I was at work, but cooking still managed to take up my entire day off. I spent a good deal of that time making a Moroccan soup called Harira, a rich, fragrant, full-bodied, meaty concoction for which I will attach the recipe below.

But finally the punch-list was knocked out, the money transferred and the keys handed over! My wife and I are now in the "post-Barranca Drive" era.
Life with Cirque du Soleil is approaching its end. The final performances are on March 16th, which happens to be our wedding anniversary, so I will not be working that day. My last day will be Saturday the 15th, so I have 4 more working days to go, and I will be relieved when it's over. My days have settled into a tedium, the only lighter moments coming in the hours I spend working with LuAnn of the permanent staff, who is great fun, and the malicious pleasure that all of us temporary Cirquadors take in bad-mouthing Nathan and his unpleasant behavior.
My daily walk reflects the changing in the weather as the rain has taken its leave and the sun is taking charge of the skies. The trees are beginning to bud or blossom, the transients gather to sun themselves on the cement picnic tables, and the clunk of baseball on bat signals the approach of Spring. Four times in the last week I have found baseballs next to the path I walk on each day back and forth to the Circus. On the far side of the path from the field. So I ask myself, "Who do I sue if I get clocked by a flying baseball?" Or, perhaps "Who does my wife sue on behalf of her husband who is now a drooling mental defective?"
So, after next week I will be taking a short "sabbatical" from cooking for a living, but a good friend of mine, who was also my boss in the restaurant business for about 3 years, is about to open a new restaurant after spending several years in real estate, selling restaurants. He has the itch to get back into the craziness of owning a restaurant, and I was the first person he called to manage his kitchen. It should take a couple of months for the property to change hands and remodeling to be completed, so I have some free time until May. I have a number of projects to keep me busy (including this one) so there is little chance I will be bored.

Harira: Garbanzo and Lentil Soup ( adapted from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden)

Serves 10
1 pound beef or lamb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
1 cup dry chickpeas (garbanzos) soaked overnight
3/4 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see note)
4 celery stalks, diced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 sticks cinnamon
1/2 tsp. saffron or 1 tsp turmeric (I used turmeric)
salt, to taste
5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
5 oz. orzo pasta
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup chopped cilantro (coriander)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Put the meat in a large pot, along with the onions and drained chickpeas. Cover with about 13 cups water and bring to a boil. Skim off the scum and simmer, covered for 1 hour.
Add the lentils, tomatoes, celery (include some leaves), tomato paste, pepper, ginger, cinnamon and saffron or turmeric. Simmer 15 mins. more adding more water if necessary, and add the salt when the lentils begin to soften.
In the meantime, put the flour in a small pan and gradually add 2&1/4 cups cold water, a little at a time, beating vigorously to blend well and to avoid lumps. Put over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, then simmer for 10 mins. Pour this batter into the soup, stirring vigorously, and cook for a few minutes, until the soup acquires a light, creamy texture.
Add the orzo 15 minutes from the end of cooking so that it doesn't get mushy (or pre-cook it in salted water and add when you serve). Add the lemon juice, cilantro and parsley at the same time.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to cut a small, shallow X into the end opposite the stem and drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove immediately, shock in ice water and the skin should come away easily starting at the X. (In restaurants we used to just drop them in the deep-fryer for about 30 seconds!)


dubaibilly said...

March 9th?

today is March 19th and it is the first time I have seen this post, despite my checking back every other day or so - guess I need to hit refresh a bit more often.

Things are looking gloomy for the Wanderers, mate. Losing to Wigan was a killer and I don't expect any favours from Manu Utd tonight.

Nice to hear about the profit on selling your place - wouldn't mind selling my place if I could get that much over the asking price! Well done

Catch ya later


Keefieboy said...

Nice blog: I hope you get the time to update it more frequently once you've sorted out the house and job situations. :-)