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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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too bad you can't sell it as a sandwich
april 1, 2009

The trees are dripping, the bird seed is floating.

Growing up in Connecticut, at least once or twice a week I'd be woken by thunder, my boyhood windows flashing.

Here, we rarely get rain. After a while, you forget just how soothing can be those millions of tiny taps.

But Spring is back in northern Texas.

A mud trail of four footprints from the far edge of our cement patio to our back door.

We look at the widening trees in our backyard garden and see what's still alive, what limbs are dead. We're sharpening our saws.

The green shoulders of the highway are turning blue, as the bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) rise above the grass. When the bonnets are at their most intense, the highway becomes an endless bridge, traveling over the bluest water.

Potatoes are again getting hard. I hope you squeeze your potatoes when you're at the market, because a fresh potato, newly pitchforked out of the black earth, should be as unyielding as a stone. After months of give, it's nice to again feel that hardness.

Thin skins of bell peppers are thickening. How discouraging that always is, in January, windows vibrating, to cut down the sides of a green bell pepper for a gumbo or Etouffee, exposing the membraned hollows within, like cartoon caves for leprechauns, and discover the skins don't have that thick, crisp, jade juiciness beloved of any green bell pepper aficionado.

Tomatoes, mealy after three days these past few months, what are we to do with them, what can anyone do with them, are getting bigger, stronger, redder, full of that subtle acidity felt on the tongue while the front of your face crunches down into one of God's most joyous creations, a perfect bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

Soon, Texas sweet onions, so much better than Vidalias, will be in big cardboard bins.

Any day now, markets around town will have ten pound red-meshed bags of live crawfish. Put their little struggles in a tall, stainless steel stock pot, and within five minutes, that bubbling water is as dark as mud with the extraordinary richness of crawfish stock. Crawfish stock is almost a meal in itself. Too bad you can't sell it as a sandwich.

Here's a quick recipe for sautéed crawfish:

1 tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp basil
¼ tsp dry mustard
½ pound (2 sticks) butter, divided use
½ cup green onions (tops only), minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pound crawfish tails (2-3 pounds live crawfish, depending on size)
½ tsp Tabasco
½ cup crawfish stock (or use chicken broth if you don't have stock)
steamed long grain rice

If you can't get live crawfish in your area, use a pound of frozen crawfish tails.

Melt one stick butter in a skillet. Add the green onions and garlic. Sauté one minute. Add the crawfish, Tabasco and the six seasonings listed above. Turn the heat to high. Sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the remaining stick of butter in chunks, then slowly add the crawfish stock or chicken broth while shaking the pan back and forth (don't stir with a spoon). Cook over high heat 6 minutes, shaking the pan constantly.

Try to time the rice so it's finished the same time as the crawfish. If that's difficult for you to do, time everything so the rice is done first. Just keep a lid on the saucepan/rice cooker until the crawfish is finished.

Using a wooden spoon, pack the steamed rice into a ramekin (with a one-cup capacity) up to the top, leveling the surface. Place your serving plate upside-down over the top of the ramekin. Holding the plate in your left hand, ramekin in your right, turn both, still touching each other, right side up, so the plate is at the bottom and the ramekin is at the top, resting in the center of the plate. Lift off the ramekin. You should have a neat, round, flat-topped mound of rice in the center of your serving plate. Repeat with the other plate. If you don't have a ramekin, use a small coffee cup (i.e., not a tall-sided mug).

Spoon the finished crawfish, with its spiced butter sauce, around the rice mound.

This goes great with a fresh beet salad. The beet salad can be made before you start cooking the rice and crawfish, and stored on individual serving plates in the refrigerator.

God, I love beets. Nothing tastes so much like the Earth.

Chop the floppy green tops off three medium-sized beets. Don't peel the beets.

Boil them for about an hour, until the beets are soft enough to slip in a knife with little resistance.

Be careful handling the cooked beets, and the beet cooking water. It stains your fingertips, and anything else with which it comes into contact. (Beets, besides being eaten, are often used for dyes.)

Tear apart a few of your favorite greens into bite-size pieces, toss the torn leaves together in a bowl. Good choices are iceberg, Romaine, green leaf and butter lettuces, plus fresh spinach leaves. But use whatever greens you yourself like. Be sure you rinse the greens under cold running water to remove any grit, then get rid of the excess moisture using a salad spinner (or paper or cloth towels).

In a separate, small bowl, add a few heaping spoons of mayonnaise. Using the same spoon, whip the mayonnaise until it's smooth. Add ketchup, stirring it into the mayonnaise, until you have a cold dressing that's to your taste. It should be at least mildly tart.

Toss the greens with some of the dressing. Not a lot-just enough to moisten. Cut off the top and bottom of each beet, then slough off the rough outer skin, so you're left with the glossy, red beet itself. Cut into thick slices.

Arrange the greens across two plates. Add the sliced beets in an over-lapping line. Drizzle some more orange dressing over the overlapping slices of each line.

If you have really, really good green olives-not the type you buy in a jar, but the type you buy in a barrel or bin where they've been steeping in olive oil and garlic, rather than brine-slice some and scatter the olive slices over the beets. Olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes work best.

The dish, sautéed crawfish and beet salad, serves two.

I don't know how many calories this dish has. Probably a lot.

But it's okay!

You made it to yet another Spring.

Poetry is everywhere.

Google recently enhanced their search function.

Now when you type in a search term, as you're typing it, a drop down box offers the most popular search terms for the words it anticipates you're going to type (to save you the trouble of typing the complete phrase). For example, if you're searching for Angelo Badalamenti, after you finish typing "Angelo", all these different Angelos appear in the drop down box (angelo state university, angelo esposito, etc.) Once I type the "B" of the last name, the list refines itself, including Badalamenti. All I have to do then is click on that name in the drop down box, and I'm taken to links pertaining to Angelo Badalamenti. Pretty cool.

Earlier this evening, while I was working on a new short story, I wanted to look up different types of oysters. I started typing my query, getting as far as "types of" when the Google search algorithms inadvertently produced this, to me, touching poem:

types of dogs
types of flowers
types of poems
types of cancer
types of clouds
types of cats
types of weed
types of wine
types of fish
types of energy