Tucson and Back

I went to Tucson last week with my boss-friend for work.  We were so darn productive and had such a good time getting our job done.  And we made sure to find some fantastic meals along the way.  My favorite spot for breakfast and lunch was 5 Points Market & RestaurantLa Cocina and Penca were great, too.  Now I'm back, loving that the sun is shining here in Portland, and excited to dive into the bead stash I accumulated while we were in Tucson.


Countdown to a 40-Year-Old Barry

Barry's 40th birthday is on Valentine's Day.  I love birthdays, and I'm excited to stretch out Barry's celebrating of this milestone date by having a mini-celebration for him every day from February 1st through the 14th.  I made an advent-of-Barry calendar using 14 bags, each filled with different treats for him to open up daily.  I'll be away for work for a few days of the openings and I can't wait to hear his response to what's in those bags.  The 14th bag will be opened while we're out of town for the biggest celebration of them all.  Yay birthdays!


An Everlasting Pork Shoulder

Ever since I read An Everlasting Meal a couple years ago, I've been roasting several types of vegetables once or twice a week to use as the building blocks of easy, healthy, tasty meals all week long.  Vegetables have been the focus of my weekly habit this whole time.  I hadn't even considered applying the practice to other foods, and by other foods I mean meat.  I guess that's because I rarely prepare meat at home.  But a recipe I saw recently pretty much begged me to.  And after making the recipe I found myself with enough leftovers to be the building blocks of a week's worth of lunches and dinners that were, I must say, fantastic.  Here's how it went:

It all started with Momofuku's Bo Ssam Recipe, which I made with a 6.5 pound pork shoulder on a Monday (my Sunday).  I served it as the recipe called for with the ginger-scallion sauce, store-bought Kimchi, white rice, and lettuce, minus the Ssam sauce and oysters.  Delicious - salty and sweet, tender and crispy.

On Tuesday, I shredded leftover pork from the bone and used this recipe as a starting point for a ragù that I served over gnocchi.  This was rich and comforting, with a taste that reminded me of a dish that Barry and I used to love at Tournesol in Long Island City**.

On Wednesday, we had Tuesday's ragù served over polenta.

On Thursday, we had a bowl of leftover morsels - the last of the ragù from Tuesday, the last of the rice from Monday, and polenta from Wednesday.  I added some roasted vegetables and a poached egg to each bowl.  Dinners like this are my favorite - lots of great tastes that compliment one another in one place.

On Friday, I used more of the shredded pork in an adaptation of this recipe***, in which I substituted leeks for onions and kale for arugula.  Perfect dinner on a cold, rainy night.

On Saturday, Barry and I brought Friday's dinner leftovers to work for lunch.  I liked Friday's dinner, I loved Saturday's leftovers.

On Saturday night, I served the last of the pork with barbecue sauce.

A week's worth of meals from Monday's pork shoulder.  Definitely not as healthy as a week's worth of meals based on an oven full of vegetables, but it was all so damn good.

Recipe notes:

*I cut the salt and sugar in the brine by almost half, and I line my roasting pan with tinfoil before putting the pork shoulder in it.

**The recipe is for an Italian dish.  Tournesol is a French restaurant.  Just wanna be clear.

***A cup of heavy whipping cream for an at-home, weeknight meal freaks me out.  I used about half a cup.


Near Randazzo

We left Siracusa to head to Randazzo at the foot of Mt. Etna. We drove quite a ways up Etna first and from Randazzo we visited several other hill towns, making a brief stop at Taormina on the coast. This portion of the trip was the most unexpected for me. Driving up Etna with the wind whipping around us. Staying in a charming old country home on a vineyard cared for by a fantastic hostess. Grapes and persimmons from the property with breakfast. Tromping through the little winding roads around the vineyard with mountain views all around. A local's compliment to Barry for his accent that was like a native's. Pizza and lots of it. French fries on every menu. No salt shakers. More and more churches. Hill towns with buildings that clung to the earth and stacked one upon the next up climbing, winding streets. The shock of a bustling touristy street after days of quaint little towns. Feeling like we'd been in Italy forever and feeling like we'd just gotten there.



The route to Siracusa had us in awe of Barry's driving skills in Sicily - he exhibited the necessary assertiveness of a native.  The drive showed us lush hills and took us through towns with buildings that clung to the narrow streets we zipped through.  We stopped in Polizzi Generosa when I needed a break from the car sickness I can't avoid.  There we had a fabulous lunch prepared by a sweet restaurateur and his family at Ristorante U Bagghiu.

Siracusa was refreshing.  My initial concern that the town would feel too touristy was quickly dashed by the comforts of cleanliness and ease and beauty.  An old town over a bridge from the new town, each with qualities of stateliness and a lightness.  A bustling outdoor market where we purchased fresh roasted peppers, cheeses, meats, and bread for a lunchtime picnic.  Octopus straight from the sea with lime juice.  Funny encounters with locals regarding Barry's beard.  A stunning Greek theater that overlooked the Mediterranean.  The heat as we explored the ruins and saw Archimede's tomb; the relief of being underground in the cool nearby catacombs.  Misunderstood orders at a restaurant.  Evening strolls through streets that were sleepy during the day but that bustled at night.



Palermo was hot.  It was charmingly gritty streets through which we wandered, often single file, along narrow sidewalks.  It was church after church after church.  It was espresso and cannoli for breakfast.  It was grilled squid, fresh from the sea, at one of the many outdoor markets.  It was pasta alla norma, pizza alla norma, and caponata.  It was an afternoon of hunting down the best filled-while-you-wait cannoli in a semi-sketchy neighborhood.  It was a dinner of squid stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and other tasty morsels at a restaurant down a bustling alley.  It was a lovely exhibit of painting and sculpture at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna and intriguing film installations at Pallazo Riso, with wonderfully simple lunches at both places.  It was decay and renovation.  It was missed connections due to riposo (siesta) at Europcar.  It was our reintroduction to Italy.


A Fifty Year Anniversary Warrants a Trip to Sicily

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November.  I love and admire my parents more than I can possibly express in words.  They have been endlessly supportive of me, and they worked like crazy to provide me with rich opportunities throughout my life.  A lot of those opportunities have involved travel and exposure to new and interesting places: taking me and my siblings on family vacations to different parts of the US (and Canada once or twice), sending me to college in New York City, making possible an awesome cross country road trip that a friend and I made while I was on summer break from college, allowing me to spend a semester abroad in Rome, and supporting the move that Barry and I made from New York to Portland to name some of the big ones.  To thank them for all the amazing things they've exposed me to and to celebrate 50 years of marriage and the family they raised in that time, I wanted to take them on a trip.  They'd been to Italy once before - almost 20 years ago - to travel a bit with me when I finished my semester of study in Rome.  That trip was a life-changing experience for all of us, so revisiting Italy seemed like the thing to do for an anniversary celebration.  Barry and I decided that a trip to Sicily - where we have been but my parents have not - was in order.  We went back in October, but I haven't posted any photos from our trip yet.  You can expect to see a few over the next couple days.