Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boneless Pork Loin Steaks with Hot Fruit Relish

I haven't posted a recipe in a while: Cookin' With Mister C has taken on a bit of a soggy tinge lately, what with the two feet of rain we've had over the past 10 days or so. The rain began the day we buried Sadie, and finally stopped yesterday morning; food has been more or less an afterthought on those grey days. Mushrooms are growing in the chicken coop, and the grass is approaching knee-high simply because I haven't been able to mow for nearly two weeks. So to snap us out of our musty reverie, here's something brightly-colored and spicy-hot to celebrate the return of the Sun, however briefly:

Mister C's Boneless Pork Loin Steaks with Hot Fruit Relish

Serves four.

1-1/2 - 2lbs (4 pieces) Boneless Pork Loin chops or steaks at least 1" thick
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
4 Kiwi Fruits, peeled and diced
1/2 lb Strawberries, diced
1 Mango, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp Green Onion tops and bulbs, chopped fine
1 Medium Jalapeno, Serrano, or Sacramento Pepper, chopped (substitute 1 tbsp fresh ginger)

First, make the relish: combine the fruit, onion and pepper and mix well. Add more or less pepper depending on your sweet/heat tolerance; I like the Sacramento pepper because it's medium-hot but very sweet. It'll get a bit gloppy, but that's the goal- if it's too chunky then add orange juice a little at a time while stirring the mix. Relish is very much about consistency, so mix it with a fork or wooden spoon until it has that unmistakable relish look-and-feel. Set it aside, or better yet chill for an hour or so before you start cooking the pork. Sensitive palates take note: This relish hits around a "7" on the heat meter so adjust your pepper accordingly or substitute the fresh ginger.

Combine Olive and Sesame oils in a medium frying pan on medium heat, add the garlic and chops. Pan-fry the chops until done, slice medium-thin and add the relish. As a lower-calorie option, cover the pork with the relish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or so until done.

This goes well with jasmine or basmati rice and a salad. For a different serving option, spoon the relish over rice or serve the relish on the side.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RIP Sadie Mae, The Junkyard Dog

Sadie Mae 1993- 2009

One month since my last update, although it seems like a season has passed here at Greenwood. The dog is our dear old mutt Sadie, 15 or 16 years old and as goofy as the photo suggests. Sadie in her senility had taken to following whatever happened to be moving around her, and would become confused and unable to find her way home. We have no fences here at GreenWood- although we've wished for them for some time now- so I had to hunt her down more than once. Yesterday, she evidently followed Zoe and Ash to the bus stop, and then being basically blind and deaf wandered into the highway and was hit by a car. Tragic, yes but certainly not unexpected.

Old Sadie was rescued as a puppy from a junkyard by Zoe's dad Felix, where she had been fed massive quantities of booze and suffered subsequent brain damage. She was a full grown trash-eater by the time I came onto the scene, a weird and kind of scary chow-german shepherd mix; she'd get spastic and run away if one tried to pet her, but then she'd come up behind you and shove her head in your lap for a good scratch. The house in Decatur was in an older suburban neighborhood, and so there were animal control employees who collected unfenced dogs. Sadie mocked them, and their lariats, and their food traps; she especially enjoyed mocking their football-fake-rush attempts to tackle her, giving them good sport and showing them how it was done. They never managed to catch her, so they settled for yelling at us about our dog from time to time.

We moved to GreenWood in 2002 and of course Sadie came with us. Ash said she didn't travel well and would puke in the moving van, but it turned out she was just fine. Now Sadie had lots of land to explore, woods to sniff and all sorts of animals to discover. Sadie stayed on the porch, not caring at all that there were deer in the field along with rabbits and squirrels practically underfoot. What got her riled was unfamiliar cars coming up the long driveway, and it was on those occasions that we saw the other side of Sadie the Junkyard Dog. She wasn't a big dog, but she gave the impression that she didn't need to be. Never one to cry wolf, when she started barking I knew I needed to come outside.

A couple of years later Norno and Tatsu came along, all 150+ pounds of them and Sadie had to learn the dominance game. She didn't mind being lowest in the pack as long as she could still eat compost and lay about on the porch. Sometimes I had to wade into a three-dog fight but they pretty much functioned as a mini-pack. Then Tatsu was killed, and we had a succession of strays show up who Sadie accepted in her strange way: Jax, the flying Jack Russell who bit her tail constantly; Honey, the Corgie/lab mix who was part of a rescue litter of nine puppies; then came Pugsley.

Sadie and Pugsley were inseperable, and Pugsley was the only dog I ever saw Sadie play with. Every morning they made their rounds together, trotting side by side around GreenWood. She would spring to her feet whenever he came outside, and always seemed happy to see him. When she was so stiff she couldn't get up Pugsley was able to get her up and moving when all she would do was bite me.

These past couple of years her decline accelerated, and she was basically blind and deaf. I could tell that petting her was painful and she just wanted to lie about most of the day. We gave her glucosamine and Prednisone when she began to fall off the front porch, her back legs not really working correctly. When she discovered that she could move about without so much pain, she would try to run but with her legs locked. She looked like a hobby-horse trying to make a break for it, but she kept up somehow.

The last few weeks were difficult, as it was becoming obvious that she was losing what was left of her vitality and mind; Ash and I talked several times about the option of giving her release but we decided that we'd just tough it out and let her come to her end naturally. She wandered off two weeks ago and we thought she was dead then, but my neighbors found her and I brought her back to the house. I knew then it was pretty much a matter of time, I just hoped it didn't happen while we were away at Dragon*Con. We came home and there was Sadie, standing on the porch like she'd just been put off a bus in a strange town, not really knowing us but happy to see us nonetheless. She was so frail that Norno's tail could knock her over, and she had a hard time rolling off her dog bed but she managed to rouse herself whenever there were leftover ribs to be had- a frequent treat here at GreenWood.

When I walked outside yesterday morning to take Conor to school I didn't see her on the porch; I knew that I'd find her dead this time. She was on the side of the highway, facing East with her ears straight up. No blood, not mangled, but looking towards the rising sun like she'd just decided to lay down and die right then and there. No final twisted grimace of violent death, her eyes still clear and her mouth closed; she looked like she'd been prepared by a taxidermist. I had my yellow garden wagon down on the highway to carry her back in some semblance of comfort, and when a trucker saw what I was doing he stopped right there in the highway and blocked traffic so I wouldn't get hit myself. When I rolled her back across the highway he flashed his lights and gave her three quick blasts from his air horn, then the world returned to its mindless rush. At that moment, the skies opened and torrential rain began to fall: I think that was the longest walk I've ever taken up the Road and driveway.

I knew where I wanted to bury her, there's a spot at the edge of the woods near the pumphouse where a previous owner had buried a dog. It looks North, towards Three Sisters mountain and Woody Gap where the Appalachian Trail begins its first serious rise. Sadie was a bigger dog than I realized, and her grave took me all day to dig. I had to dodge lightning and the worst of the deluge but there was nothing for it, she deserved to be laid in comfort- I'd be able to anesthetise myself later. We all participated in filling her grave, Felix was on the cellphone while we were working so it was a true family affair. Sadie's spot is ringed with rocks we've collected over the years, and I'll be planting a V-8 engine head as her headstone in honor of the junkyard dog that she was until the moment of her passing.

We came in and celebrated Sadie's long life with bloody rare ribeyes, smashed potatoes with Old Bay and a romaine/sweet pepper salad. Ash and I drank an entire bottle of Shiraz, and toasted the Old Lady until we were pretty well snockered.

RIP Sadie Mae, you old weirdo.