Back to the grind

Bilbo Baggins’ Road goes ever on and on, but mine came to a halt on Sunday. Monday I spent in the usual post-expedition fog, and today it was time to get back to business.

Herself lacks my interest in the culinary arts, so it’s a given that when I come home from a road trip there will be exactly jack-shit in the house to eat. After we burned through the steak, spuds and salad it quickly became apparent that someone would have to replenish the pantry, and as usual that someone was me.

Muchos grassyass

The Turk' catches some rays in the backyard.

So today, I hit the grocery — and man, did it ever hit back. Two hundred smacks down Whole Paycheck’s organic rathole for tasty bits of this and that. I should just sign over my Velo checks to these dudes and be done with it.

The good news is that the week’s menu will include fusilli draped with a spicy all’arrabbiata sauce full of red pepper flakes, capers and black olives; kung pao chicken with white rice; sausage and cheese enchiladas in red sauce with Mexican rice; chicken quesadillas; and chicken enchiladas in green sauce with a side of roasted potatoes in red chile. Can you tell I’ve been to Santa Fe recently? Yeah, me too.

Meanwhile, the Turk’ has been enjoying plenty of outside time since my return. Getting him in a harness is like sticking a hand in a running blender, and since he’s mostly my cat he’s mostly my problem.

No worries. I’ve been getting my furry brother hooked up so he can live the feline dream in the backyard, hunting grasshoppers and enjoying the last few days of summertime in Bibleburg.

32 Responses to “Back to the grind”

  1. Sharon Says:

    The menu sounds really yummy!! It’s making me hungry right now. Hey Patrick, we’re traveling to Colorado in mid-October after seeing the Avett Brothers in Albuquerque. Guess winter will be arriving by then – we’ll need big coats?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Sharon … I’m not a great cook, but I enjoy slamming things around in the kitchen and I rarely poison anyone.

      You’re coming to Colorado next month? Where will you folks be hanging out? Maybe we can hook up for a beer or a glass of wine.

      And yeah, I’d bring some class of a coat. Already the mornings are 40-something, and the evenings cool off quickly. Daytime temps are in the 70-80 range. why, I’m even contemplating wearing pants.

      • Sharon Says:

        It’s a very short trip – – just the weekend – – so we are driving from Albuquerque to the Durango area. We’ve never been to that side of Colorado before. We usually fly into Denver and go to points west. We both have pretty hectic jobs, so vacay time is always limited. Almost always try to catch some really good music somewhere we are going – – music tourism if you will (which is kind of ironic since we are from Austin area). BTW, are you leading any Adventure Cycling Tours next year? That would be a fun time for sure.Larry’s sound good too, but probably couldn’t swing that long of a vacation for a while.

  2. md anderson Says:

    You passed through Santa Fe right at chile roasting time. Did you pick up a bag or two? I can always tell it’s September when the smell of roasting green chiles is in the air.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      MD, I didn’t score any of the local goodies. One, I forgot to bring a cooler, and two, I’ve been kind of enjoying the Colorado chile the past couple of years. One local roaster brings in a variety of chiles from the Western Slope — the Big Jims are practically nuclear, and even the Anaheims pack a punch. And the Pueblo chiles are quite good, though they occasionally generate more heat and less flavor than a northern New Mexico chile.

      The smell of roasting chile and piñon smoke always makes me miss my little adobe in La Puebla, just outside of Española. Man, that was a pretty place to ride the bike.

      • md anderson Says:

        La Pueblo is practically my back yard. As SF and Rio Arriba Counties gradually get their act together more of those little back roads are paved and make for some really nice biking. Not that there isn’t still enough dirt to make multi surface gal like me happy. I have a mid-80s Trek 360 set up as a 6 speed with a single DT shifter and 25 mm Conti Sport tires that handles sandy washboard fine. I think I’ve explored most every back road from San Ildefonso to Chimayo.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        MD, do you ever eat at El Paragua? That’s the reason I wound up in La Puebla when I went to work for The New Mexican.

        I ate lunch there on a whim en route to the interview, had dinner there on the way back, and when I got the job I started looking for a place close by so I could eat there as often as I pleased, which was almost daily. Once, after a particularly strenuous Tour de Los Alamos, I ate the entire left side of the menu.

        Herself and I had our first date there, as well as our pre-wedding dinner, and I always made a point of stopping by whenever I was passing through until the matriarch who oversaw the cookery died. It seemed to me that the place lost a step or two afterward.

        As for the cycling, I’m a multi-surface type myself, but I lay a little more rubber on the road. I don’t ride a tire smaller than 700×28 anymore, and usually rock a 32 or 35. And I need more gears, too. I actually have three triple cranksets now, and everything else is compact/cyclo-cross, as in 46/34 and 11-28 or thereabouts.

      • md anderson Says:

        I think I ate at El Paragua once in the early 80s on a trip down from Boulder CO, but haven’t been in a couple decades. I have always been a a fan of Rancho de Chimayo. My husband and I had our wedding luncheon there. They were closed for over a year after a kitchen fire, but are open again and the food is still mighty tasty.

        As for gearing, that 6-spd Trek has just a 42 up front and something like 12-28 on the back and I like it just fine. Gets me up most hills without a lot of pain and keeps me from getting too excited downhill. I use it a lot commuting downhill from Los Alamos on the few days I work.
        My regular road/long tour bike is a Gunnar Roadie with a triple. Love having the lower gears for those long climbs over the Jemez and such like.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Do you ride up that big hill to bombtown with the 42-28, MD?

        El Paragua is one of our local favorites and an easy drive off the Hill, but lately we’ve been DOA after a long day at Le Bombe Factorie and have not gotten down there for dinner in the last year. Weekends find us feverishly whipping up our own goodies in the kitchen, with the added benefit that I don’t have to strictly meter the tonsil polish in anticipation of driving home.

        Concur with Larry. Canned sauces are for absolute emergencies, i.e., I am home alone, dead tired, no one is watching with a pedal wrench, and that includes the dogs. Its not that hard for even me to make up a marinara from scratch that tastes pretty good.

        One big improvement on The Hill has been the addition of a food co-op, which we joined as permanent members. Prices are not cheap, but neither is the food prosaic. Not having to drive to Santa Fe every weekend for food sure is nice, but Trader Joe’s hasn’t lost our business completely.

        Days are getting shorter. Almost time to take off one water bottle, rearrange all the other stuff, and put the big headlight and battery on the commuter bike.

      • md anderson Says:

        HA. No I hitch a ride up the Hill with the hubby. Prevents me from becoming roadkill in the “Espanola Gran Prix” in the mornings.

  3. Larry T. Says:

    We have no Whole Paycheck (or Trader Joe’s) though I visit the one in Omaha now and then. I don’t find a whole lot at WP that I can’t get up here – fresh fruits and vegetables from the local farmers market while the HyVee supermarket folks have caved in to my pestering and brought in real Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheese from Italy along with La Quercia’s (made right here in Iowa) excellent prosciutto crudo and pancetta. I hope you’re not indicating in this story that you purchased pasta sauce in a JAR from WP Patrick – I might have to drive out to Bibleburg and hit you upside the head with a Campagnolo pedal wrench!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Never fear, Larry — I haven’t bought sauce in a jar since Christ was a carpenter. As I noted above, I’m no chef, but I can do a number of serviceable sauces.

      I have a ton of recipes for various pestos and tomato sauces. The most versatile one is the all’arrabbiata, which makes a pretty good pizza sauce too. I do a couple different marinaras and a simple bolognese that I got from Giada de Laurentiis’ “Everyday Italian.” It reminds me of a sauce my mom, an old Sioux City gal, used to make.

      • Larry T. Says:

        OK, the car will stay in the garage and pedal wrench on the tool board. The spicy tomato sauce is our standard too, in fact I’ve got the iron skillet cooking up a batch right now. I’m ruined on anything called “bolognese” after time spent in Emilia-Romagna enjoying the real thing. Now my stomach turns when I see anything with ground meat and tomato together – as the real stuff contains just a hint of tomato paste and is NEVER red. “Spag boll” (as the Aussies call it) is about as close to real Italian as the pizza-like substance sold in the USA or the crap they spew out at Olive Garden. Just one week to go before I get on that plane!

  4. gmknobl Says:

    With a two young, growing kids six and nine, my groceries bill regularly breaks $200 and what we buy won’t last but a week and a half at most. Perhaps inflation isn’t going on much but something sure as heck jacked up the prices I pay. And since the paycheck isn’t going up I’m experiencing tight wallet issues. Obama’s playing Hooverishly in the WH and we can’t get that chicken in every pot. Boy, I’m hoping there’s an FDR around the corner to do some real job spending WPA and CCC like even though that won’t help me. I need my good guvnah Bobby McD to decide state workers should actually get a real cost of living increase but he’d rather the middle and lower incomes finally pay their fair share of taxes, not the rich nor corporations.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      GM, I hear you. My folks were lucky in that they could buy discount groceries at the base commissary. My sister and I were both on swim teams and eating like young werewolves.

      Obama seems to be playing hardball now, sensing that he might be a one-termer, but the Repugs seem entirely willing to crash the country rather than collaborate with the Donks on a fix for the mess they made. And I remember when we thought Barry Goldwater was a lunatic menace. He looks like James Fuckin’ Madison next to this lot.

  5. Larry T. Says:

    Obama’s got nothing to lose now – if things don’t turn around OR folks don’t realize who has (mostly) screwed things up and vote accordingly, he’ll join Jimmy Carter as smart guys who just couldn’t hack it in the big world of hardball politics. I have a tough time believing the US electorate will toss him out for the likes of Rick Perry but I thought the same thing about GW Bush. But he only got in on a technicality so there’s still hope. Romney’s the only adult in the Repug playroom but the right-wing idealogues will probably sink his chances. I’m looking forward to mostly ignoring all this from far-away Sicily – though we’ll be back in time to cast a vote.

  6. High Plains Drifters Says:

    Interesting that you have the whole week planned out. We just started doing that, and we’re saving about 20% on groceries … I guess because we’re only buying what we need instead of buying a bunch of stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it later, which more than likely leads to overages and waste.

    The economy tanked in ’08, and I’m just now getting around to trying to save money … never have been one to stay up with the trends.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Steve, I think a bit of planning definitely helps. There will be leftovers from each meal, so the next day’s lunch is squared away at dinnertime. Sometimes there’s even enough for a second dinner, which stretches the old dollar even further.

      Breakfasts are usually fairly light and cheap — some combination of yogurt, toast, juice, oatmeal, cold cereal with nuts, fruit and almond milk, fruit smoothie and/or eggs. Midmorning/afternoon snacks include LaraBars, nuts, fruit and that old standby, cheese and crackers, augmented with the occasional tin of sardines, smoked oysters or clams.

      Speaking of which, if you toss those clams with a bit of pasta and do a side salad you have a classic lazy-man dinner. And I am nothing if not lazy. Ask anyone.

      • Boz Says:

        The wife is really in tune to the socialist (according to one city councilor) food programs offered around these parts, like Share etc. They offer bulk deals on common staples, such as ground beef, pork chops, sirloin, turkey, chicken, potatoes, rice, and, well you get the drift. So far, the quality is fine, and the savings are about 40%. Now, if they’d just offer the jalapeno brats that I so love, it would be perfect! They send out a monthly order sheet with the current selections, you swing by the community center and pay. When it comes in, you stop by and one of the friendly Marxist staff helps load it into back of the Wartburg and off you go.

  7. Larry T. Says:

    A note about “marinara” as in sauce. In Italy this would indicate something to do with the sea since the word ‘marinaro” means seafaring. The Olive Garden has, for some reason used this term to describe tomato sauce and it’s since become rather ubiquitous here in the USA. “Spaghetti al pomodoro” describes spaghetti with tomato sauce in Italy, I’ve never heard the word “marinara” used to describe it there. Picky? Yeah! But ask the client who ordered a “latte” in Italy and was dumbfounded when they poured her a glass of milk at the bar, if this kind of stuff matters.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hey, language is important. But “marinara” as Yankee for “tomato sauce” goes way back, and definitely precedes The Olive Garden. I have an ancient Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that refers to such a sauce as a “marinara,” and it’s almost as old as I am.

      Webster’s also defines “marinara” as a tomato sauce, and Wikipedia suggests that it may have been favored by Neapolitan sailors because it was easy to make and resisted spoilage due to the high acid content of the tomatoes.

      So maybe we should start drinking IPA with marinara instead of Chianti? Shiver me timbers!

      • SteveO Says:

        I’ve always wondered how Napoleon kept his chocolate/strawberry/vanilla ice cream from melting on those long marches.

      • Larry T. Says:

        I dunno Patrick, folks in the USA say broo-shedda (funny how they don’t order Chee-antee though Phil Liggett said Chee-a-poochie for many years) too, but that doesn’t make it correct. I’ve wondered about the marinara reference being to sauce cooked up by those who had no meat but in Italy (where they did sorta invent the stuff after all) I’ve NEVER heard or seen tomato sauce referred to in this way since I started going over back in 1989. If you want spaghetti with tomato sauce in Italy it’s “spaghetti al pomodoro” no matter what Elisabetta Crocker, Better Homeboy Gardens or the McDonald’s of Italian food might claim. I’ve even heard someone in the USA refer to “meatless marinara” which makes as much sense as “shrimp scampi”.

    • Boz Says:

      “Can’t pronounce it, but it sure eats good” – Richard Farnsworth form the movie “The Natural”. That sums it up for me! Keep on cooking and inspiring, Patrick.

  8. Andy Bohlmann Says:

    Sounds like a Mad Dog Cookbook is in order.

  9. Sharon Says:

    Po-ta-toes, pa-tat-os, to-ma-toes, ta-mat-oes…
    Sounds yummy either way.

  10. Larry T. Says:

    No matter what you get in ITALY, it’s most often pretty good. But sometimes getting it wrong produces a surprise — I remember a guy thinking he was ordering grilled PORTABELLA (as in mushroom) but he asked for grilled MORTADELLA (as in baloney) and when a grilled slab of cured meat arrived, he didn’t believe this is what he’d ordered.
    Our local supermarket special-ordered Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for me years ago (I even wrote it down for them) and called me a week later with “your eye-talian cheese is here” so I went down to find Pecorino-Romano….yes, a cheese with a P and an R but a VERY different cheese. It worked out OK in the end though, as now they carry both!

  11. Khal Spencer Says:

    Hey, Patrick. Where did you get that black LiveWrong t-shirt you are wearing while mugging with Charles Pelkey in the latest Explainer column in VN? That is a must buy!

  12. Khal Spencer Says:

    Thanks, Patrick. I just left a message on Big Jonny’s site asking about it, and noted you are listed as a contributor.

    The All Seeing CyberEyes here in the Land of Eternal Destruction used to block DC but apparently they no longer block it since DC doesn’t have all the porn links. Sigh….nothing wrong with this world that a legion of young and beautiful Jenna Jamisons couldn’t have cured…

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