Yeah, I know, the key to success is consistency, but hey, we've had a few things going on. So, while waiting for some ciabatta to proof, the pizza oven to come up to temp, and guests arriving for lunch, I thought I would grace the world with my profound ramblings one again.
But where to start?? There have been so many things happen since my last post, post-op in Recklinghausen Germany. Traveling home, starting rehab, buying a house to flip at auction, the holiday's and all the fun/stress that brings, then on into the rehab work at said auction home, oh, and this little thing called CORONA VIRUS... you may have heard of it? Apparently the world decided to lose its collective mind and light it's hair on fire.
Anyway, after traveling back from Germany, I began to attempt returning to "normal" life. But having traveled halfway around the world to have someone slice open your belly, yank out parts of your spine, and having some fancy titanium parts hammered back in, what is "normal"? I am not a global traveler by any means, but I was amazed at our time in Germany. Yes, the people are kinda taciturn until you break the ice, but very kind to us poor confused Americans that knew about 3 words of german. People were quiet, minded their own business, and overall, a very pleasant experience, if you overlook the 5" incisive in one's belly. We went to a Greek restaurant Sunday for lunch after touring a local park and castle, and there was this elderly couple that came in after us and sat down at a long table. We thought they must be going to be joined by some other people their age, but instead, their children (not sure if was their son and family, or daughter) and they commenced to have a birthday party. Not that one would have noticed. They sat and have a very pleasant, quiet conversation, the three children drawing and sitting very much unlike my children would do, and we never heard a raised voice, even when the young girl (about 6-7 years old) received her gifts.
My wife and I were amazed, and more than a little embarrassed. We try hard to teach our own children manners, respect and to be considerate of others around us, but in that moment, it felt like we had missed the mark by a wide margin. And it wasn't just this family, either. In fact, only once did I hear children sounding like what we think is normal. At first I was annoyed, as I was roused from sleep in the hospital, thinking "why the *%&$! are they letting kids be so loud in the halls?!" until I became fully wake and realized that 1) the children were outside and three stories below me, and 2) I had left the window cracked open the way they do there. I wandered over to the window, and there in the courtyard three flights down, were two boys playing next to the pond. I lost my feeling of annoyance rather quickly, happy to see something that reminded me of home and my own boys far away.
This isn't really an essay on child-rearing and training, but it was impressive to us.
And then, beginning physical therapy happened, with all the fun usually reserved for members of a doomed adventure to some remote place. Not really, but it sounded good, huh? I actually think PT and medicine in general is extremely interesting. I think the human body is an intensely fascinating subject, and enjoy discussing how it works and why with the doctors and therapists. So, currently awaiting my last session with the PT folks, and wishing the YMCA would reopen so that I could resume using the gym there. It's noticeably harder to be motivated at home, surrounded by recliners and soft couches... can't figure out why, but excuse me while I go get another chocolate, please.
Then, in the first week of December, we had the opportunity to purchase a local home on auction, which caused me more butterflies than staring surgery in the eye. We got a better deal than planned, but that was offset by some folks living in the home that were not eager to remove themselves. After numerous visits to the house, getting a lawyer involved, and arguing with another attorney the squatter tried to "hire" for free, and having the power turned off, we took possession of the property. Then the work began.
After removing several trailer loads of trash and discarded personal belongings, we removed all the old interior doors, light fixtures, ceiling fans, towel bars, trim, baseboards, old carpet (what was left) and lots of junk outside, we were able to start putting everything back together. Cleaning, scrubbing, painting, trimming, hanging doors, painting facia, and more consumed our days for the next 6 weeks. (Oh, and that bread you're lusting after right there? I cooked that in the pizza oven while writing this.)
The home has now been on the market over the height of this Corona virus issue, which has slowed down foot traffic for showings, but we are looking forward to it selling shortly. Which would be good, because I want a new project to tackle!
Oh, kinda skipped the holidays, huh? Well, we decided to take a break from the normal "Do we go to your parents or mine?" debate, and went south. All the way to Rocky Point, Mexico, to be exact. There we rented a home right on the beach, and while the home left some things to be desired, the view was great and the boys had fun playing pool when they weren't on the beach. We saw lots of pelicans, some amazing sunsets, and during the last day, a bottlenose dolphin in the surf.
We also had our very first Christmas eve dinner at Burger King...in Mexico, and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was kinda weird but oddly familiar and slightly annoying.
And you know what was hard to find? Avocados. Don't ask me why, but they were. Somehow we survived though.
Let's see...back to the bread, which, since writing the paragraph above, has been devoured by ravenous hordes that descended on us today. I made the mistake of mixing up some dipping sauce made of EVOO, salt, fresh cracked black pepper, some rosemary, basil and oregano, and poof! gone. ALL. OF. IT. But I also made some wood fired pizza as well, so that helped offset the loss of all that great bread.
This pizza wasn't fired today, but that is pretty much how they turned out. If you are interested (like the whole world is right now) in making your own bread and pizza dough, I highly recommend "Artisan Bread Everyday" and "American Pie", both by Peter Reinert. Lots of great tips, recipes, and just fun reading. And while on the topic of reading of food and cooking, one of my other favorite reads is "The Soul of a Chef". And anything by the late Anthony Bourdain.
I like to do the overnight ferment dough that Peter Reinert uses. Today my plan was to make pizza for our guests & then after the fire was lower I would bake the ciabatta, but after reviewing the situation I decided that I needed more pizza dough. Since ciabatta and pizza dough are very similar, I split the dough in half, then in half again, making two more dough balls for pizza and making two ciabatta loaves, which I proofed and then baked before lunch. So much for leftovers...
And since we haven't been camping for quite a while, I can't really write about that, although due to the virus situation, Overland Expo has been postponed. This is probably good, since right now my wallet cannot back up the decisions my brain makes when it sees some sweet tear-drop trailer with an amazing galley for outdoor cooking bliss. Some day, some day. And since I now have said titanium discs in my back, I'm not sure how I will respond to sleeping on the ground or the thinner mattress of a roof top tent. Obviously, a tear-drop has been elevated from a "want" to a "need"!
Anyway, on to something I have been doing, cooking. And in particular, roasting garlic. I haven't done it for a while, and in preparing for today's pizza, and just because I like it, I grabbed the two bulbs off the counter, peeled all the loose papery skin off and trimmed the top ¼" off each clove. Then, placing a square of tin foil in a ramekin, I poured a tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed tops, and then gave them a healthy dose of salt & pepper and wrapped them up. I let them roast for an hour at 350 degrees, and let them cool to room temp. I proceeded to squeeze the cloves onto a cutting mat, and mashed them with a fork. Once smooth, I placed the garlic into a small bowl, and stirred in a little more S&P as well as more olive oil, until I had a smooth paste. This, in turn, was applied to the pizza dough before topping it with olive oil, homemade sausage, more pepper, and mozzarella. I had never tried this before, but I received rave reviews today, calling it a "gentleman and a scholar" and "the most noble friend I ever had" or something like that.
Roasting garlic takes the aggressive bite out of this amazing little allium bulb, which we go through in amazing quantities here, and adding butter to it makes a great spread for fresh bread, or adding it to eggs, sauces or wherever you regularly use garlic, just with a more mellow result. You can thank me later.
Well, I think that's enough for today, no need to overdo things after my hiatus, right? Cheers.