Monday, March 06, 2006

birthday weekend

Saturday, March 4th, was my 26th birthday. As you imagine, it was a special one after all that I have experienced recently. The day was very low key as I preferred. My sister, Denise, is on break from college at the moment, so it was wonderful to have her here for my birthday. For several days leading up to my birthday, I had thought a lot about seafood, which I love but hadn't eaten much of since my treatment began over five weeks ago. In particular, mussels and calamari became the two foods that I had a desire for more than anything else. Why? I'm not sure exactly. Rather than go out to a restaurant, however, I decided to try to cook them on my own and so, I prepared a dish of mussels and another of calamari. I found the two recipes at Allrecipes.com, a website that I like to visit when I'm in need of an interesting culinary idea.

"Mussels Oregano"

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Filippo BerioOlive Oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry white wine
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 teaspoon salt
5 pounds fresh mussels
Crusty Italian Bread

DIRECTIONS:
1. Warm the oil, garlic, and oregano in an 8-quart pot over medium-low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Take care not to brown the garlic. Add the wine. Increase the heat to high. Boil for about 7 minutes, or until the wine no longer smells of alcohol. Add the tomatoes and salt. Decrease the heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Add the mussels. Stir. Increase the heat to high. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that do not open. Spoon the mussels into large bowls and ladle the broth over them. Serve the bread on the side.

"Calamari in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce"

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds calamari, cleaned
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup Chianti wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese

DIRECTIONS:
1. Separate the tentacles from the long body of the calamari, if not done already. Slice the body, or calamari tubes into rings about 1/2 to 2/3 inch thick, set aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine tomato sauce, red wine, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, basil, and cheese. Simmer on medium low for about 30 minutes to give the alcohol in the wine time to evaporate, and all the flavors time to blend.
3. Add the calamari to the sauce. Continue to slowly simmer for about another 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Calamari is done when it is plump and more opaque. Do not cook on higher heat or for a longer period, as calamari is famous for becoming rubbery.

It was my very first time preparing both mussels and calamari. With regards to mussels, the seasoning was very good, I think, but unfortunately I didn't clean them well enough so a bit of sand was left behind. Yikes. Now, I know that they must be soaked thoroughly before cooking. I didn't know that when I was preparing them. Next time. The calamari dish was good, but a bit too hot. I added too much of the black pepper and cayenne pepper. For a first attempt, I think my efforts were good. Next time I hope to have better success.

Eventhough its probably more common for people to go out or have others cook for them on their birthday, I think cooking was a good exercise for me. It has been months since I last attempted anything novel in the kitchen, so this was a good try. Perhaps this will encourage me to be more active in the kitchen, which I think will be a great benefit as I recover and strengthen from the treatment.

Late Sunday afternoon, I went back to Ease Salon to treat myself. Since it was my birthday, I receive a discount for the entire month of March which is great. My first full-body massage there was for 50 minutes, but I was persuaded by the receptionist to try the 80 minute massage this time which I'm glad I accepted because it was SO much better. 80 minutes sounded a bit long at first, but in fact, the extra 30 minutes made a tremendous difference. I'm tempted very much to go there again before the month ends in order to take advantage of my birthday discount. A good massage is a great delight, though it can hurt your pocket. I fear I may be turning into a metrosexual. {laughing}

3 Comments:

Comment Blogger Kiran said...

Hey Duane....beloated happy birthday.. thanks for stopping by my blog.. that was really sweet of you.
How r u feeling? read it in your blog that your arent keeping well.
about ur query in my blog with the snaps on the side bar.
I willl mail you the details at ur gmail id soon. Just been tied up with work.
Take care and keep in touch.

5:53 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That calamari looks REALLY good. It's scott's fav, so maybe I'll give it a try.

Also, happy belated birthday!

Sarah

2:55 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks. Yeah, it is good Sarah. I hope you have better success with it than I had. :)

12:16 AM  

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