This summer I have agreed to host my 16 1/2-year-old-son, The Big Lebowski, and his two cohorts, also 16 1/2. I made sure the downstairs bathroom-slash-laundry room renovations were finished before the crew descended on the house so that the whole downstairs floor could be boy-land: smells, dirty socks, wet towels, skanky bathing sits, half-eaten packs of cheese crackers – all downstairs. Away from me.
I showed the boys around on their first night here in an effort to lay down the simple rules of the house. The scene was a little like Turner & Hooch:
…No barking, now growling, you will not lift your leg to anything in this house. This is not your room. No slobbering, no chewing, you will wear a flea collar. This is not your room. No begging for food, no sniffing of crotches, and you will not drink from my toilet. This is not your room…
Food prep was a Stupid Stop & Shop hooha…conventional cereals, loaves of bread to last through the apocalypse, microwave popcorn, salty lunch meats. In essence, crap-food. What can I say? It was an act of self-preservation.
Have you seen how much three Lebowskis can eat?
The main rule though was, “I will cook 1 meal a day: dinner. And it will be delicious. And for that delectable reward, you will follow the rest of the rules.”
When I loaded up on my delectable-dinner-supplies, I pondered some beautiful slabs of cow at The Berry Farm. My husband doesn’t eat this one particular animal, so when he’s away doing his thing it sometimes calls to me: moooo.
I brought the marbled packages to the check-out line and the woman behind the counter was impressed by my beefy selection. “Steaks. Nice,” she said gingerly placing the packs into a paper paper bag. “I’ve got three teenage boys at home,” I told her with a huff of obvious exhaustion at the concept. I thought again about dinner. “There’s just something magical about steaks and boys,” I added. “There is,” she agreed.
As it has been a windfall of cherries this year and I’ve barely made a dent in my supply with my three other cherry recipes, I try my hand at Cherry Ketchup. I have fed these boys so much sugar and Stupid Shop & Shop foodstuffs thus far, I feel I owe it to them and to myself to replace the Heinz with something artsier.
Ketchup can be made with any fruit – kind of a cool thing to do when you’ve had enough of jam, yogurt topping and pie filling to choke David Lebovitz. I use the whole nutmeg ‘nuts’ I bought in the Caribbean years ago. Micro-planing whole nutmeg (even an old one) is ethereal compared to pre-powdered stuff.
1 1/2 lbs cherries
2 tbsp whole mace blades or 2 teaspoons ground mace (mace is the dried lacy reddish covering the seed of the nutmeg)
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black peppercorns
1 tsp dry yellow mustard
2 whole cloves
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or a small chunk of cinnamon stick)
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg, preferably freshly micro-planed
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
A dash or two of cayenne or Tabasco (for a spicier flavor, optional)
1. Combine cherries with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the cherries soften, about 10 minutes. Pass the cooked mixture through a food mill, or mash with a fork and press them through a colander so you get a chunky, mashy consistency.
2. Combine the cherry mashy sauce with the spices and salt back into the saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon to keep it from thickening.
3. Add the vinegar and keep cooking until it looks like ketchup. You can adjust the spices a bit at this point. Mine needed a bit more salt. The ketchup will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.
Yield: 1 cup.
The dinner is met with His Dudeness’ approval.
Boy 1: “This steak is hella dope, Dude.”
Boy 2: “Dope.”
Boy 3: “Hella.”
Take your boots off before you come in here!