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6:16 p.m. - 2013-08-07
It's been a slice!

I was smited gifted with some zucchini. Don't get me wrong, I love zucchini. It holds up longer than almost every other vegetable when left in the crisper drawer to die. It'll take a zucchini a good three weeks before wilting into moldy goo. Compare that with crimini mushrooms that go slimy and weird within minutes of hitting the fridge and zucchini is a real trooper. Zucchini- the stalwart of the refrigerator morgue, um, crisper drawer.

However, if one is actually going to cook the zucchini it is one badass mofo of an adversary. So far my attempts at sautéed zucchini have been outright routs. My darling family, who obviously loves me very much, will always take a big blobby spoonful of my pathetic floppy grease-drowned courgette and choke down a few bites before giving me huge fake smiles and declaring it delicious before hiding the rest of it in their napkins. It's a game we play. They pretend to eat it and I pretend I don't see the soggy wads of zucchini-laden napkins when we clear the table.

Today all that changes. Today I WILL turn out sautéed zucchini which is flavorful and somewhat crisp. Or at the very least not disgusting and better suited to lubricating axles and wheel bearings than ingesting.

I've done my research. I know better than to use frying oil with a low smoke-point. I'm thinking Quaker State 30W. Nowhere near as heavy as Mobil One (though for a synthetic it's pretty darn tasty). I kid! I kid! I've gone through various combos of butter/olive/vegetable/corn/sesame oils and today I'm busting out the peanut oil. Thanks to watching several seasons of CSI: NY I've found out it's next to impossible to commit arson with peanut oil as an accelerant. The stuff simply will NOT go up. Oh sure, it'll wok-fry your sofa and the corpse thereon but good luck if you're hoping to be rid of that inconvenient dead body by turning it to ash. All you'll get from a peanut oil arson is a party-sized order of crispy cadaver in couch sauce.

In other foodie news I'm using my new mandoline today. Eeeek! How I got this thing is kind of a funny story though.

Last week, as we all know from our reading, was my MIL's birthday. My gift to her was the eggplant parm (which she's had a couple servings of and says is awesome) but Mick wanted to give his mother a present too. Makes sense, she is his mother after all. What you need to understand here is my darling husband has acquired a serious Amazon addiction. The second he decides he wants something he barges upstairs to his den, whips open his laptop and orders it through Amazon. Nevermind he has a wife with a black belt in shopping and is in the Clearance Rack Champions Hall of Fame, when it comes to getting new stuff my guy has always had poor impulse control and that damn Amazon has made his problem a zillion times worse.

Anyway, MIL collects gnomes. Or perhaps it's truer to say a gnome collection has been foisted upon her. Over the years Mick has given his mother all kinds of gnomes. Gaelic ones, fancy hand-carved Austrian ones, gnomes with wheelbarrows and gnomes with surfboards. He even found one with its pants pulled down squatting to take a dump and provided a very realistic curl of plastic poop to go beneath the gnome's bare butt-cheeks. Hilarious. So this year since it was MIL's 75th birthday he wanted something special. Aha! Mick is inspired. A zombie gnome! Perfect! Could there be such an awesome thing? Sure enough when he checks his drug dealer's the Amazon website such a thing WAS available! In a fever he orders it up and since he's there he orders a few more things off our wish list. (I know it's enabling his addiction but if he's going to be buying stuff all the time some of it might as well be MY stuff.) The box arrives with the gnome and rather than open it and mess up such a nice tidy carton Mick wraps it as is. What my guy didn't know is when you place multiple item orders at Amazon they bundle all your stuff together and ship it in one box.

So the birthday. We eat. We have cake. (Another goofy thing here, I wanted to put number-shaped candles on her cake '75' but the bakery dept. was out of '5' candles so I grabbed a package of what I thought were regular candles, nice navy blue ones that matched the icing inscription. Wrong! The candles were those stupid re-lighting ones. I was so embarrassed! We almost burned down the house trying to get those suckers extinguished. They are a real menace if you're not prepared.) MIL reads her cards and opens the gift bag from Wolf. (A few garden goodies like plant food spikes and nifty clamps to hold tomatoes and runner beans to their cages.) Now it's time for Mick's gift. Mother and son argue for a bit over proper sealed box opening procedures, but finally the flaps are open and on top is my mandoline. MIL looks at the thing very confused. "Oh, sorry, MIL, that's mine." She laughs and hands it to me. Beneath that was a book for Mick. WTF? Beneath that was a dvd of the Julia Ormond/Harrison Ford remake of 'Sabrina', also mine. By this time we're all giggling except for Mick who's cussing and muttering that he did get his mother a birthday gift, really! Amid a flurry of packing peanuts the box with gnome finally surfaces. MIL opens it and is delighted. Mollified Mick laughs with us when we goof around about how everybody got presents for MIL's birthday. MIL certainly didn't mind and was eager to hear a report about the mandoline after I'd used it.

Why a mandoline? Curiosity mostly. My knife work is decent enough. Especially after I got that most excellent sharpening steel at a jumble sale a couple years ago. I get going with my crappy yet super sharp knives and feel like Morimoto. And most certainly I've used a deli slicer. If I also hadn't been doing daily laps in the school's pool I would have had dopily lopsided arms from using the slicer at the pizza joint I worked at. We cut everything on that slicer. Pepperoni. Meatballs. Onions. Cold cuts. And cheese. Tons and tons of cheese. The mozzarella used on the pizzas came in big 5lb bricks and when we weren't serving customers me and the other counter girls were slicing cheese bricks and feeding the slices into the big grinder out back. Made for great pizza but very sore arms.

In the pizza joint hierarchy the delivery guys were the lowest. They were even below the poor schmuck chained to the sink back in the kitchen (and he had to clean the nasty drain hoses from the walk-in!). Between runs the delivery guys folded boxes and swept floors. Sick of cheese duty we decided to train one of the delivery guys to slice cheese for us but being a 17 year old dimwit with machismo issues he refused to use the slicer guard and took the tips off three of his fingers. Here's the real kicker, the boss was far angrier over the tub of bloody cheese than he was over the maiming of an employee. Drivers were expendable, 30lbs of whole-milk mozzarella was not. Yeah, my old boss was a sweetheart.

Upshot is I have a healthy respect for blades. (And very little for asshole-ish pizza joint owners.)

However good my knife work is, my sizing can use some help. I waver too much between wisps and chunks. Hence the mandoline. I want to do goofy stuff like make my own potato chips and turn out absurdly delicate cucumber sandwiches and magazine-worthy fruit trifles and layered salads. For that I need the mandoline.

And that, my friends, is the end. My family is hungry and I've got a dinner to prepare.


We who are about to sauté and slice salute you! ~LA


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