Gyro Scope

Dinner's ready...

Let’s see…phonetically, it would be “yeero, ” not “jiro.”  I’m talking delicious Mediterranean food here, not the toy with the string.  One difference: while lamb is usually the meat of choice for gyros, there are people in my house who are anti-lamb (well, really, pro-lamb, if you want to look at it that way), so I make them with pork (why do lambs get sympathy and not pigs?  I don’t know–not my issue).  So ANYWAY, if you can’t make it to the Athenian Grill in Suisun City for their gyros, these are pretty darn good.  Yes, they are a bit fiddly to grill, but they are certainly not difficult at all.

I have some notes (of course):  I used to use pork loin for these, but have found that pork shoulder makes for much better, much more flavorful meat.  Loin is too lean and thus too dry.  Slice the shoulder thinly by freezing (or thawing) it to the point where it is still stiff, but soft enough to get the knife through, and you’ll be able to slice it thinly so it grills quickly.  You don’t get the same effect by marinating and grilling the meat whole, which is why all the bitty work.  The red onion in the tzatziki (the Greek yogurt sauce) can be pretty powerful, so after you chop it, put it in a sieve and rinse it quickly under cold water to lessen the bite a little.

Marinating

Pork Gyros

serves 8

2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, sliced thinly into pieces about 2″ x 5″

Marinade:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 Tbl. Dijon mustard

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbl. dried oregano

Tzatziki:

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1 large cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped

1 tomato, deglopped and chopped (that’s how Ann Hodgman describes seeding and cleaning a tomato–perfect!)

4 Tbl. minced red onion (see note above)

Tzatziki on deck

1 tsp. crushed garlic

1 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. salt

8 – 12 pita breads

Place strips of  pork in a large Ziploc bag.  Combine marinade ingredients and pour over pork.  Marinate for 2 to 8 hours.  Preheat the grill.  While grill preheats, stir together all tzatziki ingredients (not the pitas, obviously) and set aside.  Using tongs, remove all those pieces of pork from the marinade, and place them carefully (to avoid incinerated casualties) on the grill over medium heat.  Close lid and let cook for about 7 minutes.  Raise lid and turn pieces of pork over (sorry–fiddly, I know).  Now you have to babysit the meat for about 5 minutes, moving cooked pieces off the flame, moving thicker pieces to the hotter areas, etc.

A million little pieces

You’ll know it’s done when you see the juices running, bubbly and clear.

Done!

Let the meat rest on a serving platter, covered with foil, for 10 or 15 minutes, in a warm place.  In the meantime, warm the pita bread, either in the microwave (if it’s just family and you’re eating right away), or in the oven (wrapped well in foil).  Place a serving of meat on a whole pita (see photo, top) and drape with some of the tzatziki.  Gyros are delicious and remarkably flavorful.  And now here are some of my geraniums, sure to rival any in Greece (well, I assume they grow geraniums in Greece, since they grow so well here in our Mediterranean-like climate, and what with Greece having an actual Mediterranean climate…).

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Guilty Pleasure Music

justin timberlake and britney spears

I’m kind of holding myself up for ridicule with this list.  Normally I have very particular musical taste, and to say I am persnickety would be rather an understatement.  So I’m not sure how this music sucked me in, but it did.  These are all pretty old songs, but I don’t know that a guilty pleasure ever dies. When I talked about music to dance around the house, I suggested you crank it up.  With this music, however, perhaps you should keep the volume a tad lower, and I would certainly keep the windows rolled up in the car.  Your children may pretend they don’t know you if you play these songs around them.  Unless they’re a lot more tolerant than my children (gee, I just don’t know where my kids get their strong opinions…).

Westside Connection:  “Gangsta Nation

It’s just so wrong, a middle-aged woman loving old rap like this.  But you will be tapping your toe, let me tell you.  Consider this an invitation to my gangster nation.  Excuse me.  My gangsta nation.

Justin Timberlake: “Senorita

I really don’t know what to say about this.  I really, really hate boy bands and their former members (although, speaking of members, I do have more respect for Timberlake after his song for SNL, “D*** in a Box”), but I really, really like this song.

Biz Markie:  “Just a Friend

He can’t really sing, he more just talks, and the song screams one-hit wonder.  I originally heard it in a Heineken commercial (the one in the taxi), and that’s endorsement enough for me.  Plus it’s really fun to sing along to.

Britney Spears:  “Toxic”

I think anything Britney Spears sings that isn’t horrible (which I’m not sure leaves too many options…) has got to be a guilty pleasure. And the video (which is where the link for Britney will take you) is great–she gets what a video is supposed to be.  It’s like music videos used to be before MTV (you know, MUSIC Television??) got so stupid and stopped playing music videos.

Fountains of Wayne:  “Stacy’s Mom

Same deal–like a throwback to the videos of the 80’s.

NeYo:  “Closer”

I’m telling you, your kids are gonna disown you….

Ke$ha:  “TiKToK”

Anybody whose name and song title look like a series of typos may not be high on the intellectual property list.  But this is a great song.  You’re going to want to go to a keg party.  Well, if they had them for old people.  But this is guilty pleasure to the nth degree, and an awful lot of fun to sing along to.

Okay.  That’s enough for now.

What Would You Do…

…that’s right, for a Klondike Bar.  Here is a shameless product plug.  (Note to self: find out how to get paid for shameless product plugs.) If you like mint-chip ice cream (which I do), go and buy some of the new mint Klondike Bars (which I did).  They are in your grocer’s freezer (it’s like I’m a professional endorser), and they are delicious.  I mean, how could a slab of unnaturally green mint ice cream generously coated with chocolate go wrong?  Well, trust me, it doesn’t.  I’m going to need a 12-step program to get the Klondike monkey off my back come autumn.  But for now, I highly recommend you get a box (or two) and stash them in the freezer.  You will thank me.  No, really, you will.

The Wrinkly Eyelid Chronicles

Charlotte Rampling 1960

Charlotte Rampling then

Charlotte Rampling now

Oh, it’s just so sad.  My smooth, peach-like complexion is drooping and wrinkling like the skin on said peach when it’s been left in the sun too long. Which is, actually, exactly what happened.  (Have you noticed how unwrinkled your–ahem–unexposed bits and pieces are?)  On most of my face I am keeping time somewhat at bay with Retin-A, but the eyelid wrinkling and drooping is just awful.  My mother used to say that aging wasn’t for sissies.  Boy, was she right!

I keep telling myself that my eyes are starting to look a bit like Charlotte Rampling’s.  She appears to be aging naturally, and thus getting a bit droopy around the eyes herself.  The only problem with that logic  is that before she became an actress, Charlotte Rampling was a model, and I…was not. So the original package she started with is perhaps a teensy bit better than the original package I started with.

An eye lift is not in the financial cards any time soon.  Plus, I worry that if I did get one, I’d look perpetually surprised.  And while an at-home eye lift performed with Scotch tape does provide comic relief, it’s not really suitable for every day.  At this point, all I am left with  is topical prescription cream, smoke, and mirrors.

First of all, the Retin-A is something of a miracle.  It does amazing things with crow’s feet.  If you use too much, however, you tend to get dryness and sometimes shininess.  You have to play with it to see how often to use it and how much works for you. The other products (the smoke and mirrors part of the equation) that help a lot are both available on Sephora.  The first is Urban Decay Eye Shadow Primer.  I had stopped using eye shadow last year, because it just creased so badly.  I got a sample of the primer from Sephora, and it is an excellent product.  It keeps my eyelid area smooth all day, and now that I’m trying to try harder with my eye makeup, now I have a smooth canvas upon which to work!  And who doesn’t love the “I Dream of Jeannie” style bottle?

The smoke and mirrors

The next challenge was that even the most emollient eye pencil dragged through my newly crepey skin.  So out with the pencil, in with the liner.  I tried several drugstore brands like Revlon and Cover Girl, but no go.  The liner flaked off, or the brushes shed, or the wand of the brush was at an odd angle.  Enter Lancome Artliner in noir.  It’s wonderful.  My hands are not the steadiest in the world, but I can apply this liner with no problem (the key is a magnifying mirror and short strokes, no drawing on a wing in one fell swoop).

Urban Decay and Lancome are kind of expensive, but both are well worth it.  For now, I’m afraid Charlotte Rampling is on her own.

Cheap Little Treats

Doesn’t everyone need a little treat sometimes?  Sadly, more than likely no one is going to get you a little treat unless you get it yourself.  But a little treat is just that–little.  So it needs to certainly stay under $20, and hopefully less than that.  My latest little treats:

1.  Well of course you know I’m going to say the wonderful, always free library.  While you’re there, kindly check out Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, go home, lie on the couch, and start reading.  I finished it last night.  So good, so much fun.  It’s Hollywood, it’s New York, it’s lunch at  21 and  drinks at El Morocco.  Just a total soap opera, with sex and drugs and…well, no rock and roll, but there are some Broadway stars with issues.  It starts in 1945 and goes through to 1965. Susann wrote what was considered a trashy novel, but holy smokes, could she write!  I think a lot of trashy novelists today didn’t make it much past 7th grade composition class.  Go on!  Just go get it!

2.  Havaianas flip flops on Amazon.com for $14, with free shipping! And in the color I wanted (navy blue–I’m not really a fashion risk-taker).

3.  Buy a magazine and a nail polish at Target (or Wal-Mart, whatever).  You can do that for about $10.

4.  Get a single-serving dessert at the grocery store bakery.  Nice big eclair, maybe a slab of carrot cake…your call.  $5, tops.

5.  Go to Amazon.com and download free music.  Amazon puts it directly into your iTunes, once you download their (free, very good) software.

6.  In Target, there is a makeup line called e.l.f. (which stands for eyes lips face).  Well, don’t buy the makeup, since it’s made in China.  But the makeup brushes (which are also made in China, but you don’t leave them on your skin for hours and hours)?  Well, you need to own those.  I mean, buying good makeup brushes can start at about $20 and go up (and up).  And just because they are expensive doesn’t mean you won’t eventually want to throw them away, even if you are good about washing them.  These e.l.f. brushes are either $1 each or $3 each (those are the expensive ones).  I am trying to try a little harder with my eye makeup, and since I already had some MAC eyeshadow from ages ago floating around the drawer, I certainly couldn’t justify a few new $10 eyeshadows (and we won’t even talk about department store makeup prices).  But for $4, I got two new brushes, I’m using up perfectly good makeup I already had…well, I’m just so thrifty!

7.  I love perfume.  A lot.  And not just any perfume.  It has to be unusual, it has to have certain notes, and it has to be made in France.  I decided it was time for a change, so I was on a perfume hunt, but the stores in my travels just didn’t have anything that worked for me.  So, naturally, I turned to the internet.  Now perfume shopping online is risky, at best.  You can spend a fortune on a bottle of something that smelled wonderful on the woman in line behind you at the movies, but smells dreadful on you. However, you can get samples (or decants, as they are sometimes called) for a very minimal cost. And there is enough in a sample vial to wear it for a few days, so you can really give it a good test drive. Try Luckyscent.com, fragrancenet.com, and theperfumedcourt.com to buy sample vials.  Most samples are under $10 (Lucky Scent has a few that are $12 or $15, but that’s for perfumes that cost close to $500 a bottle!), with most being around $3 or $4–certainly cheap enough to get out of the celebrity-fragrance rut.  I went to The Perfumed Court to get a sample of the perfume my mother wore when I was a child (Dioressence).  Made me feel quite wistful–amazing how scent can instantly take you somewhere in your past.

8.  Finally, one of my favorite treats is getting all my housework done early on a Friday, and then spending the afternoon reading or cooking or laying in the sun (with sunscreen on, of course. No, not really.  I thought I should sound responsible. It makes me feel goopy. But at least I don’t stay out very long, since I get too hot.) or doing something fun like a blog entry.  And frankly, a cocktail wouldn’t go amiss in any of these scenarios.  In fact, I’m going right now to try a concoction of homemade lemon simple syrup, Ketel One Citroen, and soda water.  At some point, I’m sure I’ll report back.

Happy (for a limited time only?)

Okay, well,  that’s enough whining.  My point is that it is so important to notice your happiness!  Pay attention to what you are doing and notice your contentment!  It is so easy to let the days get away from you, focusing only on what’s hard, what’s a nuisance.  Noticing your satisfaction is like visting an oasis if you’re having a crappy day, and it’s a nice bonus if you’re not having a crappy day.

Knowing that my time at home may be coming to an end (hopefully not totally–a part-time job would suit me just fine), I’m trying to be even more aware of how much I love staying home.  I approach housewifery with the same work ethic I approached any paid position I’ve had.  I start early, stay late, and keep to a schedule.  I look around to see what else needs to be done.  I give it my all.

So when I’m in some office filing and answering phones, I won’t feel like I didn’t appreciate my life.  To the contrary–I know very well that being a housewife is the best job I’ve ever had.  And, well, okay, perhaps I’ve not been looking very hard for a job–I’m kind of hoping that something to do with books or food or writing, for, oh, four hours a day, that pays an enormous amount of money, will–poof!–appear before me.

Hope springs eternal.  Now I have to go put the laundry in the dryer.

A Mother’s Day Punch

“Punch” the drink, not “punch” the physical violence.  That wouldn’t be a very good Mother’s Day.  But “punch” the drink makes for a very nice Mother’s Day (or any other time you are having company for brunch or lunch).  This extremely quaffable libation  is not expensive, it is delicious, and it’ll keep both your minimal-drinker friends (and mothers) happy and your wino-in-training friends (and mothers) happy. It works well for a brunch or a lunch, which is perfect since you don’t hear a lot about Mother’s Day dinners (probably because Mom’s usually back on duty by dinnertime).  The fruit juice seems to eliminate the headache that can come with drinking early in the day,  and you can feel slightly virtuous because it is, after all, fruit juice.  And you can feel stylish, too, because punch seems to be turning up more and more as a cost-effective, but still delicious, way to get a large group of people liquored up (and of course I mean that in the most genteel way).

Confession:  this is not a picture of my actual punch (even though it looks just like it).  I didn’t happen to have any photos of punch lying around, and making a batch of punch just for a photo shoot seemed rather wasteful.  And if I had made it I’d have felt compelled to drink it, and…well, no good could have come of that situation. I mean, it’s Tuesday.  Morning.   So I cribbed this picture off the internet.  Mea culpa.

Here’s an interesting tidbit:  the word “punch” is from the Indian (or Urdu? I can’t remember) word for “five,” and a traditional punch always had five ingredients (and now you can see why a “punch” in the nose is called that–Good Lord, more physical violence!).

On to the task at hand.

First of all, a day or two before you are serving the punch, make an ice block.  I like to slice up a lemon and/or an orange (it looks prettiest with both, but use whatever you have), and then place the fruit in a small container ( a square 4-cup Gladware is perfect for the size of my punch bowl).  Put lots of fruit in–you want it to look like a block of frozen fruit, not like an iceberg adrift in your punch bowl.  Then fill the container with water. Place it in the freezer.  After about two hours, push the fruit down into the slushy water (but if the water isn’t “thick” enough yet, come back in a little while) so that there is fruit throughout the block of ice, not just floating at the top.  Freeze at least overnight.

Brunch/Lunch Punch

1 (6 oz.) can frozen lemonade concentrate

32 oz. pineapple-orange juice  (I buy a half-gallon of Dole, in the carton, and just use half)

1 bottle well-chilled dry California white wine

1 bottle well-chilled brut California sparkling wine

Mix lemonade concentrate and pineapple-orange juice in punch bowl.  Add bottle of white wine. I usually use an inexpensive (but certainly not rot-gut) sauvignon blanc. (I specified California because hey–we live less than an hour away from one of the world’s greatest wine producing regions, and if that’s not being a locavore, I don’t know what is).  Add ice block. Gently pour bottle of sparkling wine down the side (the inside–do I have to say that?) of the punch bowl (helps minimize carbonation loss) and serve immediately.

Feel free to top up the punch bowl with more champagne and/or more pineapple-orange juice as  it gets drunk. I can’t tell you exactly how much this will serve, due to whether you use those funny little cups that come with the punch bowl, or some heftier, more, uh, thirst-quenching-size glasses.  At my house recently,  seven  people (with large glasses, not the little cups) were kept amply hydrated for the afternoon with these amounts.


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