I spend a lot of time at home now. The building where I normally spend most of my life remains a victim of super-storm Sandy (They are officially not calling it the hurricane anymore, must be some guy from an insurance company who though to down-grade it). So I spend a lot of time in my home office, in virtual isolation. Virtual, because that is what my word has become, a collection of electronic communication with the outside world. My days are spent looking mostly at a computer screen with only a window view for entertainment. Maybe it is not as exciting as the latest office gossip in the pantry, but it is starting to grow on me.
I see the resident groundhog (named Jeffery by my son when he was a toddler, it must be that groundhog’s grand-son by now…we call him Jeffery still) make his daily food run. He is exact in his timing, right on the dot at 9:30 a.m. I swear, it seems like he is going off to the supermarket or something, coming back about an hour later and squeezing his furry fat behind under the shed. He must be making stores for the winter sleep. I feel a sense of kingship with the critter; I amuse myself by making stores in my fridge. I swear, I must be storing stuff for the winter too, like the wildlife in my backyard. So if I am not e-mailing or staring outside my window, I make slow roasted tomatoes and duck confit, because I now have 5 hs at home. I make pizza dough and sauce and freeze it. A few more weeks of this and I am going to be ready for hibernation. While I cook I wonder how long do groundhogs live and whether one day he will get too fat for the little sliver of a hole. He’ll be like Vinnie the Poo and I will have to go rescue him.
I see squirrels squabbling in the trees, sometimes they make so much racket fighting I want to throw something heavy at them. Do you know, that squirrels screaming and fighting is even more annoying than when your kids do it?
Now that the leaves are gone are get a full view of the high school behind my house. I see the kids hurrying to and from class and enjoy the daily announcements (I can hear the loud speaker, so am very versed in all high school activities). I absolutely have no need for a clock in the mornings as the “Good morning, Old Bridge High school!” comes exactly at 7:30. I find myself pledging allegiance to the Flag every day at 7:31, rain or shine, just because it becomes impossible to ignore the daily loud chant while pouring coffee. And I guess, I am more trainable than I would like to think. I also have no need for an outside thermometer as the teenage fashion outside my window provides virtually exact information. It is what I know call the “Teenage Thermometer”, it works like this:
- Above 50F the girls are wearing shorts and T-shirts, the boys are tying their T-shirts around their wastes and going bare-back
- 40F to 50F, some girls can be spotted in a light sweatshirt, boys are reluctantly putting their T-shirts back on
- 30F to 40F, some rebel and start putting pants on, usually not the boys
- Below 30F, the teenagers are mostly broken, all wearing sweatshirts now, some even carry a coat (notice, I did not say wear!), boys are still wearing shorts.
So I sit here and contemplate how this country manages the birthrate that it has, with all these youngsters freezing off their future reproductive parts… I really need to go back to the office!
Since I realistically cannot wait to use up all my stores in the spring, I made flatbreads out of pizza dough and loaded them up with crisped up duck confit, dried mission figs, slow roasted tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and arugula. Turned out to be one of the tastiest treats I made in a while.
Duck with Figs and Smoked Mozzarella Flatbreads
Pizza dough (follow the link to my recipe)
2 cups of duck confit meat only, roughly chopped (follow the link to my recipe)
6-7 dry mission figs chopped fine
¾ cup of slow roasted tomatoes ( see Note)
1 cup smoked mozzarella cubed
1 cup fresh arugula
1 tbs olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced fine
Preheat the oven and either the pizza stone or quarry tiles to 500F. Combine the duck and the figs and crisp up in the skillet for a few minutes. Roll out your dough, depending on how thin you want the bread, but I would try for pretty thin if you want a crunch to your bread. Combine the olive oil and garlic and brush the dough with the mixture, concentrating mostly on the edges.
Top with duck and fix mixture, sprinkle the slow roasted tomatoes and cheese evenly - Do not overload!. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the crust is crispy and the cheese has melted.
Once out of the oven, top with arugula and let the pizza rest a few minutes. Slice and serve, preferably with a nice wine!
Note: Slow roasted tomatoes - I like to use small cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes for this. Cut and seed the tomatoes into 1 inch cubes (if using cherry ones, just split them in half). Seed the tomatoes well, getting out as much juice as possible. Spread on an baking sheet covered with foil. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, Pepper and a few pinches of sugar and bake at 250F for 2.5 to 3 hrs. Store in fridge in an airtight container for up to 10 days.