Tag Archives: friends

3 years later, sausage.

For three years I did not eat sausage.

After I was diagnosed with severe food allergies to anything derived from a hot pepper (paprika, cayenne, chipotle, chili, etc) and tree nuts, I discovered that sausage is pretty much always made with some variety of pepper. No more Jimmy Dean or MickeyD’s breakfast sandwiches for me.

I’d had several people tell me I could make sausage, but I was convinced that the process itself would be so gross and disgusting that I would never want to eat it again. So I said no, thanks. (cue squinched-up face in disgust). Until my neighbor Liz decided that we could do it.

“I’ll handle the raw meat,” she said. “It’ll be easy.”

Liz is a force of bubbly nature when she gets an idea in her mind, so I knew this was happening. She texted me a picture of the meat she had chosen (ground pork) to make sure it was allergy-okay, and brainstormed ideas for fillings. She sent me a YouTube video. She told me to make sure I had Saran-wrap. I was confused and skeptical – since I hadn’t watched the YouTube video – but pulled out the Saran-wrap anyway.  There was a knock at the door.

“Okayy, let’s do this! Are you ready?” she asked, eyes wide with excitement.

“Yeah,” I responded. I grinned and made a face. “Is it gonna be gross?”

“I’ll handle all the meat, promise.” And she did.

We pulled out all the ingredients and got to work. It was no more disgusting than making meatballs! And it was really, really easy. I couldn’t believe it. Let it go on the record that I was wrong and Liz was right.  Here’s how you do it, with all credit going to Liz:

In a mixing bowl, place ground pork or turkey. Mix in spices you want (I did one version with basil, garlic, oregano, and a bit of parmesan cheese; one version with feta, dill, garlic, and basil). To make it all stick together, I’d recommend adding one egg.  We didn’t this first time but I plan to next time.

Take a big handful and roll it hot-dog style on a piece of Saran-wrap. Wrap the Saran-wrap around it and twist the ends. Do this for all the meat.

Par-boil the sausage by placing it (inside its Saran-wrap casing) in boiling water. Leave it until the meat turns white and the shape is solid; use tongs to remove from the water and let cool. Remove from the “casing” and either freeze it or cook it the rest of the way.

You can grill it or cook it up in a skillet. It wasn’t grilling weather the first time around, so I went for the skillet option, added some extra feta and carrots, and here’s what I got:

sausage.jpg

And it tasted as good as it looks. YUM. Thanks, neighbor.

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SLI’s Potato-Kale Gratin

Ok, so my friend SLI gave me a cookbook for my birthday last year – a cookbook that she wrote for me.  It’s a great story, and I’ll tell you the whole thing someday (or put it in my book!), but today is not the day for a story, today is a day for a recipe.

Here is my interpretation of SLI’s Potato-Kale Gratin:

Ingredients:

-1.5-2 lbs thin-skinned boiling potatoes (I use butter potatoes)

-1 bunch kale

-1/4 cup olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic (or Wegman’s Basting Oil, with basil and garlic already in it)

-1/3 to 2/3 cup bread crumbs

-1/3 grated Parmesan cheese

-1/2 cup mozzarella and/or white cheddar cheese

-optional: oregano, thyme, basil

Instructions:

Ok, first off – and this is totally optional – I toast my own bread crumbs.  It’s kind of a pain, but I tried it the first time because I had a concern over the ingredients in store-bought bread crumbs, and I found that it added a lot, taste-wise.  So now I do it all the time.  Take a couple slices of wheat bread, crumble them up into little pieces, and bake them on a cookie sheet for around 10 minutes (or until they look toasty but not black) at 350.  (You can always make extra for next time and stick them in the freezer until you use them again).

Next, preheat (or maintain) the oven at 350.  Boil a large pot of water, and also prepare an ice bath in a big bowl.  Slice the potatoes ¼ inch thick (using a knife or mandoline) and then add them to the boiling water for around 5 minutes.  Drain the potatoes, dump them into the ice bath (and stir them around a bit to make sure they all get cold), drain them again and let them dry – you can blot dry with paper towel.

Cut off and throw out the spines from the kale (this means to cut off the leafy bits from the middle bits).  Wash and cut the leafy bits into ½ thick ribbons (so, length-wise – you’re not making salad, you’re making “ribbons”).

In a big bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, and some herbs (or you can use the basting oil here).  Add the kale and mix it all up with your hands.

Take a 9×12 rectangular casserole dish, or whatever other oven-safe dish you like.  Layer the kale, then potatoes, then mozzarella/white cheddar cheese, then bread crumbs, as many layers in this pattern as you can fit.  I like to end with parmesan cheese on top. Sprinkle some herbs on top too at the end.

Cover with a top or aluminum foil or a cookie sheet, and bake for 30 minutes.  Bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

 

YUM.

 

 

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Starting the conversation

My friend called me up from Philadelphia.

“How have you been, J?” he asked.

“Oh, I’ve been okay,” I answered, “I had an allergic reaction last week though, so things could be better.”

“Hm.”

He paused before asking, “So what exactly happens when you have an allergic reaction?”

“Well… my skin itches and gets red, sometimes my cheeks flush… my stomach gets very upset, and I start to shake… my gums feel tingly and sometimes there is a tickle in the back of my throat, and then if it goes too far, I can feel my throat start to swell and my asthma kicks in.”

Silence.

“Wow.”

Silence.

“So, could you die from this?” he asked.

The question hung in the air over the phone.  “Yeah,” I answered, matter-of-fact.

Two months earlier, I had stayed with this friend on a visit to Philly.  I had a full conversation with him before my arrival about my new food allergies, and I requested to cook a dinner for him and his housemates to alleviate the stress I feel from dining out and when traveling in general.  He was caring about it all and quickly accepted the offer.  I thought this meant that he understood exactly what this all meant to me – but I realized when he asked if I could die from this that for whatever reason that message had not gotten across.

We carried on with our conversation as usual, and I tucked my nugget of frustration into my back pocket.  Later, I took it out and thought through how this could have happened.  Had I not explained it well?  Had he not heard it?

I think it may be difficult for friends and family to hear about life-threatening conditions.  It can be difficult to process, and many don’t want to fully face the reality of such an uncomfortable fact.  There is not an easy way to start a dialogue with friends and family (or continue one, if they don’t hear it) that involves the fact of a very real possibility of a life-threatening situation.  We don’t want to hear that our friends could die.  We don’t want to be responsible.  We don’t want them to be uncomfortable, either.

It’s possible I didn’t want to scare him, and so left out the gory details of what happens during an allergic reaction.  It’s possible my friend wasn’t really paying attention the first time.  Or perhaps he didn’t want to hear it, or thought I was over-exaggerating.  Perhaps because he cares about me, it was too difficult to consider.  No matter the reason, our phone conversation led me to the conclusion that food allergies, and health-restricted diets, and life-threatening conditions, are not an easy or regular part of our social dialogue.

Let’s start the conversation.

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Filed under Social issues