Apparently, there is a bobcat a-foot in our neighborhood. He’s reportedly been seen sunning himself on the side of the road, peeking through the rails of back decks and even, chasing a female runner up one of the wooded trails. While he’s not easy to spot due to his coloring, the telltale sign that he’s around is the frenzied chirping from the birds in his locale. Here is a picture I snapped of his cousin on a recent trip to the Oregon Zoo. He looks none too happy to be in here while his blood relative is out fancy-footin’ it in the wild.
My evening had started out as one of pure bliss. Two dear friends of mine and I had sipped a beautiful, “citrusy” pinot gris and munched on crisp red peppers dipped in a hummus – truly one of the smoothest, most flavorful that I have ever had – which the hostess had picked up at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. The children were off playing in the bowels of the house and we were left alone to chat away. Kids’ activities. Teachers. Books we’ve recently read. Books the kids have recently read. The meaning of life. And, while we chatted, the heady aroma of onions being caramelized swirled around us.
As we were deep in conversation about the meaning of life – a topic “to be continued” – the hostess laid down before us what she calls her version of pizza. I could barely contain myself when I saw what befell me. Thick slices of Heirloom tomatoes covered with the caramelized onions, Herbes de Provence, chopped pecans and crumbled blue cheese. I inhaled each tomato “pizza” with such quickness that I bordered on being quite rude. I simply couldn’t help myself. Each bite was heavenly.
Growing up, my siblings and I were regaled with the legend of the Hide-Behind Monster. Supposedly, one can never see the Hide-Behind monster. No matter which direction or how quickly you turn your head, he is always behind you. And, he’s a tricky little monster in that he doesn’t show up in mirrors. You always know he’s around when you hear the crack of a tree branch and the “hoot” of an owl. And so, throughout my childhood, I always carried with me the feeling that someone was behind me. I would dart up dark stairwells as quickly as possible. Upon reaching the top, I would promptly twist around trying to catch a glimpse of whoever was there but nobody ever was.
Our exquisite platter of “pizza” was long-gone, the sky was dark and the children were getting sleepy. I reluctantly packed up my little tribe, headed home and continued to marvel over tonight’s dinner. We had received notice earlier in the week that our street was to be “slurried” the following day – which meant nothing to me except that I wanted to start singing, “Surry with the Fringe on Top” – and all cars would need to be off the street by 8am. As I’ve told you before about my “morning-challenged-self,” I knew that I would need to take care of the car that very night. I decided to drop the children off at home with my sweetie and then park the car on the next street over. There is a little trail that connects our two streets. In the daylight hours, it is perhaps a 5-minute walk through the woods.
I parked the car, alongside others with the same idea, and then, headed down the trail armed with a flashlight that beamed a quarter-size circle of light. Now, let me explain that this trail goes straight down a flight of stairs and crosses a little creek before it goes straight back up another flight of stairs. All was going well. I was still talking to myself about the pizza, humming Rogers and Hammerstein show tunes and shining my little pin of light. But, as I went down, down, down…down into the darkness. Down into the bank of ferns that somehow seemed to be growing taller than I. And, down the trail that at this point, I could barely make out, I became aware that the darkness was literally swallowing me up. Pressing on me. Suffocating me. I was alone in the complete and utter pitch black. I started to take deep breaths, switched to whistling “Whenever I feel afraid…,” and pulled out my cell phone hoping to gain a little more light by shining it on the ground as well. And then, I had the feeling that someone or something was behind me. Just sure I was about to be attacked, I flipped around as quickly as possible. Heard a crack of a tree branch. The frantic chirping of birds. An owl. My heart started racing. I started to panic. Hyperventilating even. I picked up my pace, ran across the bridge and started to fly up the stairs on the other side. I was on the verge of screaming, “Help!”, convinced that the bobcat, a person, or the Hide-Behind monster was about to grab me, when my feet lost their footing on the gravel stairs. I slipped and “down, down, down, I fell.” Hard.
Stunned, with a throbbing elbow and skinned knees, I laid there. The light from my neighbor’s front porch was shining on me through the ferns. I prayed to the Lord above that neither she nor anyone in her family had been peering out in this direction the minute before. I shook my head, slowly stood up and chastised myself. “Look at you. A grown woman. You really need to get over it. The Hide-Behind monster does not exist!” I methodically climbed the final stairs, turned the key in my front door and went into my sleeping house…absolutely mortified.
As for the bobcat, who knows?
Pizza à la Julie
2 tbls olive oil
1 tbls butter
1 large or 2 medium, onion(s), thinly, sliced – Walla Walla or Hermiston Sweets, if you can find them. Regular, yellow onions if you can’t
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
½ cup crumbled, blue cheese – such as Rogue River Blue
1/3 cup chopped, roasted pecans
1 tsp of Herbes de Provence or 1 tbls of a variety of chopped, fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano and a pinch of rosemary
optional: salt & pepper, to taste
Begin by prepping your onion(s) to be sliced. Peel. Cut off the end(s). Then, heat/melt your olive oil and butter in a large, skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice your onion(s). Add them to your heated fat, stir them around to coat them in the mixture and then, turn your heat down to low. You can at this point add a pinch of salt and pepper but I usually just let the oil/butter work their magic with the sugars in the onion. Now, don’t be frugal with your onion(s). Trust me. It’s better to have more than you can ever imagine because they will cook down. Way down. Keep your heat on med-low to low and stir the onions from time to time. After about 20 minutes they will become translucent and take on an amber color. Take care not to let them brown too quickly or burn which will give them a bitter taste.
While the onions are caramelizing, you can
sip wine and chat with friends slice your tomatoes and lay them out on a platter. Next, crumble up your blue cheese and have it ready. And, if I may, I’d like to suggest Rogue River Blue Cheese. This year’s wheels have just been released into stores and Rogue River Blue has the distinct honor of not only being made here in Southern Oregon but being known as the “Best Blue Cheese in the World” due to the numerous awards bestowed upon it over the years. I’m not sure how the Roqueforts feel about that, but let’s go with it.
I was recently enlightened to the fact that, while pecans are available year-round, those pecans harvested in the fall are the sweetest and most moist. So, get thee to a store now and gather up some fresh pecans. You can choose to roast them the traditional way – 350 degrees, single layer on a cookie sheet, roast 5 minutes, stir, roast another 4-5 minutes OR you can do a little trick I learned for roasting all kinds of nuts when you’re short on time. Just pop them in the microwave for about a minute. Not quite the same, but it’ll do. Chop them up and set them aside. If you’re choosing to use fresh herbs, chop them up and set them aside also.
By now, your onions should be done. Put a “forkful” of them, and their delicious syrup, on each tomato slice. Next, sprinkle the blue cheese over the onions, then the pecans and finally the herbs and optional, salt and pepper. Serve them up to your friends and watch them swoon.
I do, in fact, serve these “pizzas” to my children and they inhale them. One difference, though, is that I put the blue cheese and nuts on the side and let the children decide if they want a more “purest” type of pizza or if they want to load up on all the goods.
Yield: About 12 “pizzas”
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009