Monday, January 02, 2006

Life Is An Incredible Adventure . . .

When is a meal not a meal, but rather, just a large afternoon snack? That’s what I learned as “merienda”. In the Spanish language, it means, “snack”. My Filipino family would have afternoon snacks that were more on the dessert side. Sweet more than savory. My Mom makes a killer “Sweet Bibinka”. Sometimes with hand-grated fresh coconut or with simple sweet rice cooked in coconut milk. She also makes the ever-so-present-on-every-banquet-table, Lumpia. Those of you unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, they are the same as fried egg roll. Mom used to make her own wrappers with her perfected “crispy” recipe, but has in recent years, surrendered to the commercially prepared wrappers now available in most Asian supermarkets. Even selected Costco locations carry the convenient packages of pre-fried bundles. Naturally, there’s nothing like Mom’s own. Her grandkids know the difference. One bite from any Lumpia other than my Mom’s will prompt a confident “Grandma’s are better.”

This day, Ander and I decided to partake our “merienda” in honor of the 6th year anniversary of his beloved father’s passing. Heino Kase was loved and admired by many. He lived 82 full-of-adventure years before succumbing to inoperable brain tumors. He shared with us many tales of his rich and contented life. A native of the Baltic state of Estonia, he shared with us the story of being one of the last to leave the port of Tallinn as the Russians took over his homeland. His story inspired my award winning recipe “Estonian Bundles with Vodka Cream Sauce”. I’m sure the radio broadcast of KSRO’s Annual Listeners’ Recipe Contest is in the annals of their recorded sound bites. I was privileged to have cooked many family meals for him. His affinity to my cooking was often demonstrated by his modest request, “Is there more?” or “Oh, this is good. I like this. Why haven’t I tasted this before?” Every Wednesday was “Seafood” day at his company’s cafeteria. He made sure to allot time for a leisurely lunch so he could sample and relish in all that was offered. A stranger he had just met once described him as a “genius among us”. He was a kind, generous and loving father. When my own father, Rick, passed away, Heino caringly embraced me and declared, “Although your father is no longer with us, you will always have a Dad in me.” He was accepting of me from the beginning of my relationship with Ander. He believed in our marriage. He was proud and supported Ander’s career as a talented artist. He was able to communicate this to Ander before he died. Even at his end, he was still giving. We learn from his example and follow his lead. A quote he kept on his desktop read, “Life is an incredible adventure or nothing at all, if you do not participate.”

Our “merienda” consisted of Calamari Fritti, with the essential request “straight out of the fryer”, Hot Artichoke Dip with extra crostini, on the side, and two tall glasses of “Arnold Palmers”. For those of you unfamiliar with this thirst-quenching beverage, it is half iced-tea and half lemonade.

Calamari Fritti

Hot Artichoke Dip

In your honor, on this day, January 2, 2006, we toast to you. Cheers to Heino.

We miss you, Dad. We love you, Dad.

P A R T I C I P A T E ! ! !


Active time: 1 hr Start to finish: 1 1/2 hr

1 (9-oz) package frozen artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 oz finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced drained pickled jalapeño chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
3/4 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
Accompaniment: benne seed pita toasts

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook artichoke hearts according to package instructions, then drain well and finely chop. Cook bell pepper in 1 tablespoon butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in artichokes and transfer mixture to a bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour and cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes. Add half-and-half in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in artichoke mixture, scallions, 1/3 cup parmesan, lemon juice, jalapeños, salt, and celery salt. Gently stir in crab. Transfer to a buttered 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

Bake dip in middle of oven until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Cooks' note:
• Dip can be prepared (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from:
Gourmet Entertains
May 2003 © CondéNet, Inc. All rights reserved.


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