Thanks to Smucky, Mark has become obsessed with Gordon Ramsay. Here is something you may not know about us: we don’t have cable or satellite TV. Other than a couple of years in high school, I have never had cable. In college and a few years after, back when TVs had antennae, I had network television, which I watched occasionally, but I’ve always preferred reading to watching television, and frankly, when we were no longer able to get even network stations, I didn’t miss it. We just stream stuff from Netflix and are plenty happy with that. However, whenever we are around cable television, such as our parents’ houses or hotels, we each have a couple of things we fight over watching. For me, it was always the Food Network. For Mark, it’s aliens. Frankly, I think the Food Network might be the MTV of the 21st century: do they have any shows about COOKING FOOD these days, or is it all just reality television? I don’t even bother trying to watch it any more. I never really watched it that much to begin with because it seemed like Paula Deen was always on and she gives me convulsions.
Anyway, Mark would always change the channel away from food as soon as I wasn’t looking. But Smucks loves Gordon Ramsay and when he was here last, he somehow got Mark stuck on Gordon Ramsay as well. Since then, Mark has been taking his Sunday meals up a notch. I’ll be honest with you: I’m surprised how good Mark is at cooking and that he hasn’t yet lost interest in making Sunday dinners. Apparently I have Ramsay to thank.
The first meal or two Mark made, he slavishly followed recipes he had found online, but one thing I’m really impressed by is how he’s been improvising since then. There’s no one way to cook, and I rarely help him, but I think he’s actually picking up my techniques, so I keep telling him he’s doing it right. He had asked me earlier if Caesar salad was okay for dinner, so I wasn’t surprised that was what he made tonight, but I was surprised by how great it looked:
He was particularly proud of the dressing, so I asked how he made it, thinking he’d give me a link to the recipe, but to my surprise he told me he didn’t know; he just made it up. I am so proud! Because it was really, really good! Fortunately for you, after we finished our meals, he remembered the recipe, so I’m going to share it with you.
Mark’s “Chicken” Caesar Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
a little less than 1 Tbsp [vegan] mayonnaise (I told Mark this was called “scant”, but he told me to write it like he said it)
1 Tbsp “normal” vinegar
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
splash of white wine
splash of red wine vinegar
a bunch of coarsely-ground black pepper
some more pepper
Blend together all of the dressing ingredients except the “some more pepper”. Mark hates mayonnaise and wants me to stress to you: DO NOT USE TOO MUCH MAYONNAISE OR IT WILL BE DISGUSTING. He used it to create a little creaminess, but he was very wary of it. If you use too much mayonnaise, you’ll have to add extra lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and pepper to mask the horribleness of the mayonnaise, Mark says. The dominant flavor of this dressing was the garlic (the house smelled deliciously of garlic; it was making me hungry!), but it’s not overpowering…although I suspect you had better be a garlic lover. After blending, taste and adjust the ingredients until it’s perfect, then add more coarse pepper. Set aside while the flavors blend.
Meanwhile, grill or pan-fry the “chicken”; we use a George Foreman grill. When it is done, slice into long strips.
Remove 4 or 5 of the best romaine leaves per serving and arrange in each bowl. Chop the rest of the lettuce and place in the bowls. Prepare the rest of the vegetables and arrange them neatly in each bowl. Top with the croutons and mozzarella. Drizzle with the dressing. According to Mark, Ramsay is big on presentation, and Mark’s been paying a lot of attention to it. See above for his amazing results! It not only looked great, but it tasted great.
I am also supposed to tell you that Mark included the mustard in his dressing because he learned from Alton Brown that mustard has scientific properties that bind oil and vinegar. I’ve always wanted to watch Alton Brown, but never managed to be around cable television at a time when he was on, until very recently Mark found and downloaded a bunch of Good Eats, the non-meat-tastic episodes of which we’ve watched a few. Yeah, that’s the first time I ever saw the show; we are SO not with the times in this household.
The other big news from today is we released the first three raccoons of the season! Raheema thought she was ready to go as soon she got to the outside enclosures (she wasn’t really ready then), but we had to wait until a few good days of weather were forecast. Which hasn’t been easy: our county flooded much worse than I’ve ever seen on Thursday. I was hoping we could do it today while I was there, and I was lucky!
We’re fortunate that we can release animals right on the wildlife sanctuary grounds so we can do soft releases. That means the raccoons are welcome to return to their enclosure for as long as they’d like (within reason), and they’ll be fed there during that time if they wish. So all we do is just open a little raccoon-sized door on the outside wall of their enclosure. We were a little surprised Raheema didn’t bolt out as soon as we opened it. I don’t think she realized what was happening at first.
It didn’t take her long to figure it out.
The first thing she did was climb her neighbor’s cage.
And two minutes later, she was back in the cage!
She went back and forth a few times, then we eventually lost track of her, because we were watching her brothers, Quivet and Quebec, who finally decided to join the fray:
Raccoons love climbing.
Compared to the tiny babies I bottle-fed a few months ago, these kits looked so BIG to me in their outdoor enclosures. But once in the great big outdoors, they looked so tiny again! I’m confident they have what it takes to survive though and am very happy for them!