Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HURRICANE IRENE

In Greek mythology, Irene (Ειρήνη), was the goddess of peace. The name Irene means serene, peaceful. It's ironic that the hurricane which pounded the east coast of the US this past weekend was named Irene.  This Irene was full of wrath and fury, and there was nothing tranquil about her. Along its path hurricane Irene caused widespread destruction: floods, power outages, property damage, and unfortunately some deaths.

I am very grateful that we, here at home, fared well. Our house held up. No power outages, no water or any other type of damage. As a rule, our neighborhood does not flood. However, there are a lot of very large trees growing in our area, and some of them topple when we have powerful storms.  

Such was the case Saturday night, around 2:30 am, when the eye of the hurricane was passing over us. While keeping vigil in the garage, I heard a very sinister sound.  It was brief in duration and very loud.  It really scared me.  A few minutes later I heard a similar sound, but it seemed as though it was coming from farther away.  "This is really frightening thunder," I thought, so I gave up my vigil and went into the house.  About an hour later I heard the sound of truck engines and the buzzing of power saws.  I grabbed a large umbrella and stepped outside.  Rain was falling in swift and powerful streams.  The torrent was illuminated by the street lamps and I could see it being blown back and forth as the wind changed direction.  My umbrella was of little use, and I should not have been outside, but my curiosity had gotten the better of me.  I saw an enormous tree trunk lying by the side of the road. I realized that the sounds I had heard earlier were not thunder, but trees being uprooted by the wind.  One tree fell right next door to us, the other a bit  further down the street.  By the time I had gone outside, the township workmen had already cut our neighbor's tree and had moved it off to the side so that it wouldn't block the roadway. The root trunk had been lifted and placed back on the curb. I counted five trucks on the scene, one of them from the gas works. All in all that was a very quick response time.

The work performed by our township crews was well organized and efficient. They worked under severe weather conditions and did an excellent job. Way to go Drexel Hill, PA!!! As for me, I was soaked to the bone. I went back inside and changed. I didn't go to sleep until about 10:00 am Sunday, after I was sure everything was alright. I slept for five hours. When I woke up all I could think to do was to go outside and take pictures. It turns out I forgot to take my medications... didn't even think about them until I started feeling dizzy and rundown later that Sunday night. I guess I am not as efficient as our township crews.



In late afternoon, I surveyed the damage. By then the rain had stopped and the hurricane had moved north to New York.




Here's part of the trunk, back on the sidewalk....  Poor old tree!


Here's the root trunk next to the hole where it used to live... Those roots were underneath the sidewalk, which as you can see lifted up and dislodged.  Tossed like a paperclip.  All this happened in seconds.


Yup, that's one big hole.  Even the road has been torn up.  Perhaps they won't just patch it up...  I hope they pave the whole street.  Wouldn't that be nice?


The rest of the trunk.  The air smelled sweet with the scent of the oak sap emerging from the injured branches.


On the lawn repose branches.  Big branches.


Another view of the catastrophe next door. 


The second tree that fell.  "Bradley Tree Experts" had already been on the job and had removed most of the branches.


The sidewalk was upturned...


This was a surprise.  I didn't expect to see a lamppost hiding there. 




Two windows and part of the chimney destroyed, plus a large part of the roof.  Looks like an abandoned house in the woods, doesn't it?  It's not.


There had been a van parked in front of that tree which miraculously survived any major damage.  It was left with just a dented quarter panel.  The tree branches reached to the house next door and destroyed part of that roof. 



Some homeowners were very, very lucky.  Here there aren't even any leaves to pick up.  Our lawn was littered with oak branches and leaves.


Families walked over to take a look.



Some homes had smaller damage.  This Japanese maple must have been diseased.  It had almost no root system.   
By the way, I've always loved the exterior of this house.  It looks like an English or Irish cottage.  We call it "the white house,' because it is after all, white. 

Yes, we do have some rather large trees in the neighborhood.


These oak trees are majestic.  I hope we don't loose any more of them.


Our house withstood the wrath of Irene.  Our lamppost still works, however it needs propping up. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SHRIMP WITH RICE


I love rice! I love shrimp! Put the two together and that's my version of comfort food! Here is one of my favorite recipes for shrimp and rice, easy to make any time. Try it, it makes a great dinner.  It has a nice mixture of vegetables, and the tomatoes and broth make the rice taste wonderful.  Peas are a nice addition here, and I usually include them, but this time we did without them because I forgot to buy them.  I think the best part about making this dish for dinner are the leftovers.  They make an excellent non-liquid nightcap!


Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 generous cup of sliced mushrooms
1 large green pepper (or red if you like), finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1&1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup white wine (or replace with chicken broth)
3 cups hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 small bay leaf
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped.
2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined.

Directions:

  • In a large skillet heat the olive oil and add the onions, garlic and green pepper.  Cook until the onions are soft, about ten minutes.
  • Add the rice and cook while stirring, until the rice turns golden in color.
  • Add the wine and the mushrooms, stir, and then simmer five minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, tomato, parsley, thyme and bay leaf.  Cover and cook about twenty minutes or until the rice is soft, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the shrimp and also the peas if you will use them. Simmer about 7 to 8 more minutes, until the shrimp are done.
  • Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BREADED PAN-FRIED HALIBUT


I'm almost embarrassed to post this recipe because it was so simple to make.  I had purchased some halibut fillets wanting to cook them in a completely different manner, but my mother convinced me to pan fry them.  That's her favorite way to eat fish, so I could not say "no" to her.  I didn't know how breaded pan-fried halibut would taste, and I was a bit nervous about the outcome.  I shouldn't have worried.  The fish came out delicious. 


The most important thing was to make sure the fillets were completely dry before being prepared for cooking.  So I washed them well and then patted them dry with paper towels.  Next, I seasoned them with salt and pepper.  I got the frying pan ready:  a nice heavy one, large enough to accommodate the fillets and have room to spare.  They should not be overcrowded while being cooked.  I poured some canola oil in the pan, enough so that it would reach about 1/4 up the sides of the halibut fillets.  I prepared three bowls.  In one I poured some flour.  In the other I beat an egg along with the juice of half a lemon.  Then I chopped a large basil leaf and added it to the egg mixture.  In the third bowl I poured some panko bread crumbs.  Panko is good to use here, because it doesn't absorb too much oil and because it stays crunchy after cooking.  I waited for the oil to heat up and then I dipped each fillet first in the flour, then in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumbs.  As soon as each fillet was well coated on both sides, I placed it in the frying pan.  I cooked each side until it was browned, then I placed the halibut on a serving platter.


The last step was to sprinkle just a little lemon juice on each fillet.  Yup, never forget the lemon juice.  It's a Greek thing.  Greeks are obsessed with lemons and lemon juice.  Good in savory foods or desserts, makes one's hands really soft, deodorizes the kitchen, and I think sprinkling a little lemon juice on laundry will make it come out of the washing machine a lot cleaner... well, I haven't really tried lemon juice on laundry, but who knows, there might be something to it.   


To keep things tidy while frying, I used  one hand to do the dipping in the flour, egg and bread crumbs.  I kept my other hand clean so I could use it to touch surfaces and utensils without leaving spots of batter all over them.  That's a really neat trick!  Anyway, the halibut came out moist, not greasy at all, and it made a great dinner.  We had a panzanella salad with it, with tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the garden.  Simple, summery and delicious!