Just the other day, I told y’all about the raccoons in my neighbor’s attic crawl space. Well, we’ve been dealing with raccoons in our attics for a few years now. In late winter/early spring, female raccoons look for a safe place to den. “Safe”, meaning away from male raccoons who resent the babies because while mama nurses them, she won’t mate. So… quite simply, baby raccoons are not safe around a horny male and mama has to hide them.
That’s another reason I don’t like the idea of calling in animal control. The mom works so hard to keep her babies safe. That’s nature at it’s most basic and beautiful.
But, these raccoons are rather fertile and while I saw two adolescent raccoons last week, I have now seen Mom and three toddlers who are still so small, they’re unable to navigate their way home.
This morning, at 6, which is late for them to go home, I heard all this chattering from outside. What did I see? Mama raccoon on the roof across the alley, coaxing her little cubs up the drainpipe where they would then tightrope along the roof’s edge for a couple of yards, then wiggle down to the awning and into their dark and cozy den – which happens to be my neighbor’s attic crawl space.
The chattering was the mom telling them to hurry, I’m sure. It was also the babies grunts and whines as they tried and tried to do as mom said, only to fail and have her lead them down instead. Where they wound up is anyone’s guess. The babies are at that awkward stage – too big for her to carry home and too small to get home on their own.
I don’t want them in anyone’s attic and I’d rather they live away from our neighborhood but… I find myself now concerned about their safety and hoping they’ll soon get that upper body strength necessary to find their way back “home”.
For your viewing pleasure… this is what I watched from my window this morning:
It was just over a year ago when my 95 year old Sicilian grandmother passed away. I blogged all about her and her impact on my life here. But something I don’t recall mentioning was her cooking. And man, could that woman cook.
I guess I took it for granted that she would always be around to make her exotic, healthy, quick and complicated meals for us. I mean, for my entire life, she was there, living in the same house. The aroma of her food wafting through the rooms. Eventually, the ingredients and steps for some of her signature dishes were etched on my brain but they will never quite taste, smell or be like hers.
More than a few of those are still in my head, not on paper. It wasn’t until I read Christine Ashworth’s blog, Artichokes are Silly, that I realized I should write these recipes down so my daughter has them and can pass them down to her children, proudly saying they belonged to her great-grandmother.
To honor that decision, I’m posting one recipe here. I promised Christine I would share it but I have to caution you, there’s one ingredient that cannot be duplicated. One ingredient that adds depth to the flavor and memories to the experience. That ingredient is grandma’s love. Which I miss terribly but am so grateful to have had for as long as I did.
Enjoy this. It’s a lot of work but worth it.
three artichokes – trimmed and washed
1 1/2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated cheese (I use equal parts of parmesan and romano but you can use your favorite one)
3 garlic cloves diced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/2 teaspoon pressed garlic in tube
1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed dried parsely
1 tablespoon capers (some brine is fine)
black pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons sundried tomatoe paste (Amore brand is the best, IMO)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive paste (if you can’t find this, it can be omitted. It just gives an extra flavor zip but won’t be missed if you haven’t had it before)
Cut thick stems from bottom of artichokes until they can sit flat on platter.
Cut about 1-inch from top of artichokes and discard. Use scissors to snip and discard all sharp leaf tips.
Gently spread leaves open and rinse under running water until cleaned – just spread leaves as you rinse so tiny fruit flies and such are rinsed away. Disgusting, I know, but I once found a live caterpillar in an artichoke as I was cleaning it. Better then, than as I was stuffing or eating it. :-S Fill pot with water, invert artichokes and let soak to clean.
In a large bowl, combine rest of ingredients except for the broth. Using about 1/4 teaspoon (more for larger leaves, less for smaller leaves) ‘stuff’ each leaf with crumb mixture. Breading should sit at the bottom of each leaf. Do not overstuff or it will become too dry.
Place artichokes in large dutch oven, pour in enough broth to rise about 2 inches from bottom of artichokes, reserve remaining broth to add as needed. Bring to a boil. Lower to a light simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until leaves separate easily from globe. Be sure to check level of broth regularly. If too much evaporates, either add more broth or some water (water will obviously reduce flavor so make extra broth your first choice)
Using a large ladle, scoop each artichoke with broth into a bowl.
To eat – pull each leaf and eat only pulpy bottom part with breading. When you reach the sharper inner leaves (usually bowed toward the center like a bud), pull them off as one clump and discard. Remove choke with spoon and enjoy the ‘heart’ or very bottom of the artichoke, which is always our favorite. Another favorite part of this is the scrumptious taste of crisp Italian bread dipped in the broth. Delicious.
I hope these directions were clear. I do this by memory and so I know the ins and outs of it but have never detailed it for others who may not be as familiar. There is a way to remove the choke prior to stuffing these, but I don’t know it. If anyone else does, please share. 🙂
Nothing would make me happier than if some of you make these part of your holiday traditions. I know, my grandmother would be all smiles in heaven.