"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: red cardinals

good things . . .

eggplant parmigiana ~ the best ever!

eggplant parmigiana ~ the best ever!

I’ve had a craving for tender, crisply fried eggplant recently and bought a medium sized one at the store last Friday on the way home from my hospital visit to have the sutures taken out.

The first step I took this morning was to make some enriched panko breadcrumbs: melting a dollop of unsalted butter in a skillet, pouring in a fresh packet of panko crumbs, stirring gently to distribute the butter; a couple of sprinkles of Lawry’s garlic salt from the gigantic container I bought at Sam’s Club, and dried parsley to provide some nice color. On low heat, I stirred the crumbs until they turned slightly golden and smelled fragrant from the garlic salt. Cooled and then transferred to a plastic container for future use.

panko bread crumbs toasted in butter with garlic salt and dried parsley

panko bread crumbs toasted in butter with garlic salt and dried parsley

In the afternoon, I washed and sliced up the eggplant into slightly thinner slices than usual so as to ensure tender crispiness and also to avoid having to fry thicker pieces longer and then have to drain the slices of fat. Sprinkled the raw eggplant with Maldon salt. Let sit for an hour or so on the kitchen table. Then wiped the salt and liquid clean, drying the eggplant slices. Then, the three-fold dredging steps, dipping each slice of eggplant in flour, beaten eggs, and prepared panko breadcrumbs. Oil simmered over medium-high heat in the skillet, a quick fry, turning the slices over when golden and then draining the fried slices on paper towels. I had to clean the pan halfway through to avoid burning the eggplant and started over with clean oil, not smoking. I set the slices aside to rest.

breaded eggplant slices . . .

breaded eggplant slices . . .

Then, I opened a can of San Marzano tomatoes and ran them through the Vitamix, adding some leftover diced tomatoes that were in the fridge used earlier in vegetable soup. Tasted the tomato puree for seasoning. It was simple and free of additives found in brand name sauces, just Italian tomato taste. Spread a thin layer on the bottom of an old oval copper au gratin pan. Placed eggplant in a thin layer, added scant layer of sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and hand-grated fresh parmesan cheese.

San Marzano tomatoes. . .

San Marzano tomatoes. . .

Turned oven to 375 degrees. When almost time for supper, slid the copper pan into the oven and baked for about half an hour until golden brown on top. Made a salad of lettuce, cucumber and red onion.

While i was dredging and frying the eggplant slices, I had a fleeting thought that maybe making this dish was too much trouble. Later, however, G. and I agreed that this was probably the best eggplant parmigiana we’d ever had. I think it might have been due to a) thinner eggplant slices encased in tasty breadcrumbs; b) very little unprocessed and simple tomato sauce that did not drown the eggplant nor made it soggy;  and c) real parmesan cheese hand grated at the last minute, added to the mozzarella cheese.There was no salt at all except for what had been wiped off the raw eggplant after curing it of its innate bitterness. We’re so glad there’s enough left over for us to eat again tomorrow!

eggplant parm in the oven. . .

eggplant parm in the oven. . .

For dessert, there were still two pieces of the sour cream chocolate cake that I made the other day–half a recipe in a small square pan, frosted with ready-made chocolate icing. “Delicious!” G.’s mother commented after they finished theirs last night. His mother is ninety-five and lives across the street with G.’s brother, J.

This afternoon, G. handed me his Nikon to download photos of the cardinals who sing outside our home and flit around in the trees and bushes. We feel they are a positive sign from the universe and protect us with their colorful presence. G. maintains there are two pairs of cardinals whom he has observed squabbling with the chickadees for territory. Here are some images to enjoy!

Cardinal 2cardinal 3

seeing red . . .

As some of you know, I’ve been a little disheartened lately. Today, as I was driving along a country lane, a huge, dark red cardinal flew across the front of my car from right to left, his crimson wingspan fluttering in full view. I gasped and thought to myself, “all is not lost,” because I think of cardinals as good omens. Feeling a little better, I picked up my cell phone to call G. While I was describing the red cardinal flying in front of the car, ANOTHER ONE, this one a lighter, golden color, a female this time, flew alongside the right side of my car for about fifteen feet and then winged off into the woods. Two in one day! I began to feel better in earnest.

As I continued driving up to the North Shore, I reflected on what these twin sightings might signify. I asked the Universe silently, “what does this mean,” as I drove up Route 128. All I heard in reply was “everything will be all right” and then a little more softly, “cheer up.”

At the cottage, I ferried things into the house: foodstuffs, bedding, clothing, flowers. The kids are planning to join us tomorrow for the week, then a luncheon for friends next weekend: a busy time. The sky was clear, the sun out, a small red speedboat bounced along the surf, making loud popping noises as it hit the water in its hasty traverse across the horizon. A lovely day.

Returning to the car, I decided to go and fill up with gas so it would be all set for the week. As I edged the car down the rocky lane, I spied a flicker of red in the high bushes to my left. I stopped the car and peered upwards, spying my third cardinal for the day, a male, dark red and pretty large in size.

Seeing red three times today was convincing evidence that it’s definitely time for a change.

For the better!

seeing red cardinals. . .

photo taken by Timothy Hardin

Whenever I am driving along in the car and a red cardinal swoops in front of me, I think of it as a good omen. I don’t know why but I think of it as a secret messenger whispering in my ear that something good is going to happen. Or, simply that “hey, everything is fine!” It is a bird of affirmation. With this unfounded bias, whenever I see cardinals, the rosy, light brown female and the bright scarlet male, I sense that the Universe is playing a song and that I should listen to it.

In February, two years ago, my father lay in a bed by a basement window. He could see the trunk of a shrub outlined there if you propped his head up with a pillow. A few days before he died, we heard birds hopping on the branches of that shrub. When we looked up, we gasped when we saw not a pair of cardinals, but two pairs of cardinals. Yes, there were four adult cardinals brightly hopping on that shrub. If they were a “sign” of anything, the cardinals did not tell us what it was. They lingered for at least two days. Right on that same shrub–it seemed as though they were giving some last messages to my Dad while he was still here on earth. Or maybe vice versa, who knows?

My husband, G, is aware of my affection for cardinals. He shares an affinity for them too, I think. One day last year as I unloaded groceries from the car onto our front steps, he greeted me with a “shh” and beckoned for me to enter the side door of the house. Along the south wall, there was a twelve foot high iron trellis that G had erected years ago to support a bower of climbing roses, mostly pale pink “New Dawn” intermingled with “Constance Spry” . Signalling for me to step quietly inside the saw room, he pointed at the window and the underside of the rose bower, whispering the word, “nest.”

A proud father cardinal stood on a branch near a nest of baby cardinals, the mother nowhere to be seen. She returned a little later after a break sitting on the Sassafras tree on the other side of the driveway. Here, we witnessed two pairs of cardinals, parents and babies. Seeing them so close up in a nest built next to the house brought back the memory of the two pairs we had witnessed at my father’s bedside.

I don’t know what cardinals represent but click here to see what Ted Andrews, in his book Animal Speak says about them.