THE RECIPE BOX - Dog drool and whistle-pigs

THE RECIPE BOX - Dog drool and whistle-pigs

LINCOLN - It's been a busy week. Last Sunday we had a leak from the faucet on the second floor. Coincidently, the dog had been lying on my kitchen floor, underfoot as usual. Roxie is getting old, plain and simple. But I seriously think she has some "doggie dementia."

Nowadays, she'll walk across the street with out looking, she barks at her own shadow and she acts like a jealous child when the grandkids are around. So considering all these factors when I saw a small wet spot near her jaw on Sunday I said out loud to Jim, "What, is she drooling now too?"

Even when I came back to the same wet spot an hour later it never occurred to me that it might be something else. It had rained and the window was left open, therefore I assumed the floor got wet that way. I wiped it up for a second time.

After watching evening TV and then getting up to get ready for bed - by then it was 11 p.m. - I could not believe the floor was wet again. Exasperated, I wiped it dry once more, still swearing up and down the dog is getting more needy by the day.

I don't know what possessed me, but I looked up and realized we had water dripping ever so slowly through the ceiling. I finally put it together with the sink upstairs. Sorry, Roxie.

Meanwhile, there's a critter frequenting my backyard and he's made it his home. Daily he can be seen way out back near the vegetable garden - which is fenced in - and poking it's wide little brown nose into the grass.

There was a small dispute among the Hanson's as to what it actually is? A beaver, my son Jeff thought, but since there's no waterway close by, that was unlikely. A woodchuck was the next guess. But is it possible for a "chuck" to have bitten just the tops off all the pepper and tomato blooms in our garden without destroying them?

It looked as though someone had perfectly snipped just the tips. We thought it had to be a deer, something tall enough to have gained access without climbing up the actual plants. It ate the blooms off my hibiscus plant as well. Now we're at war with Bambi.

A fake plastic owl, noisy wind chimes, a twirling ornament all went into the garden. It seems to have worked, at least for now. But I think Bambi was a transient visitor, unlike the pesky woodchucks.

I searched online and learned some interesting facts about the little rodents. The woodchuck is a lowland creature; it also goes by the name land-beaver (which means that Jeff was partially correct), or whistle-pig. Now, I like that name.

"I have a whistle-pig living in my backyard," sounds a whole lot more interesting than "I have a woodchuck." So whistle-pig it is! Apparently they can make a high-pitch whistling sound when threatened to warn the rest of the clan.

I learned that they are mostly herbivorous, meaning they eat wild grasses and vegetation that includes berries and agricultural crops. Grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and/or other small animals are also included in their diet. Because our lawn is not chemically treated, we still have bees and all of the above, so basically it's a whistle-pig smorgasbord here.

What I did not know about the whistle-pig was that they burrow underground tunnels, creating the place where they sleep, raise their families, and hibernate. They are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation for the winter and use the burrow for that purpose. So our little whistle-pig family is bulking up for the impending doom of winter.

So far the garden is rebounding, despite the deer. But I wonder if the whistle-pig is lying in wait for our tomatoes to turn red before he makes his kill? I hope not, since the garden growth has been slower than in years past and I'm really looking forward to ripe fresh tomatoes.

The eggplant for this week's recipe came straight from our garden, in spite of the wildlife wanting to overtake it. Between my husband and I, my son Jeff, daughter-in law Stephanie and grandson Elvis, it gets tended to. Sometimes I water and weed it, some days it's Steph and Elvis, it has turned into a family community garden and we share the bounty.

The recipe idea for grilled eggplant with pesto came from my husband's work-friend Jose. Someone in his family had made it for a get-together and Jose raved so much about it. I've wanted to try it, and finally the eggplant is coming ripe.

I thought it sounded delicious and went online searching for a recipe. The one I found included the fresh mozzarella, which only enhanced the final product. It was fabulous and very easy to make. A balsamic reduction drizzled over the top would be awesome.

The idea for the jalapeno butter came from Stephanie's friend Laura. She grilled some corn, whipped up the butter and loved the combination. Grilling the corn in the husk was a great way to add a deeper flavor, and the hot jalapeno butter was simply delightful.

All in all, some of the best ideas come out of simple conversations like the ones being shared this week. We enjoyed both recipes and I hope you do too.

Does anyone know how to prepare whistle-pig? Just in case!


Grilled Eggplant With Pesto

Ingredients:

2 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds & grilled

1/2 cup prepared basil pesto

3-4 slice thinly sliced mozzarella, drain well on paper towels

Kosher salt

2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Directions:

1. Lay the grilled eggplant slices in one layer on a parchment, or foil-lined baking sheet. (Keep sizes similar, next to each other.)

2. Spread each slice with a little pesto, (1/4 tsp.) and top every other slice with a piece of fresh mozzarella.

3. Sprinkle salt on the cheese and top with the other eggplant slice.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees, sprinkle them with grated parmigiano and heat until warmed through, about 4-5 minutes.

(Can be served as a starter or side dish.)

How to Grill Eggplant:

2 small or one large eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

Kosher salt

Directions:

1. Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt.

2. Grill (covered on a gas grill; uncovered on a charcoal grill) until golden brown grill marks form, 3-4 minutes.

3. Turn the eggplant over and grill until tender and well marked on the second side for 3-4 more minutes. The inside should be a grayish color and soft rather than white and hard. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Corn on The Cob with Jalapeno Butter

Ingredients:

6 ears fresh corn on the cob, unhusked

2 jalape?±o chilies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. grated lime peel

Directions:

1. Prepare grill, high heat. Grill chilies until charred on all sides. Cool 5 minutes, then using a paring knife, peel chilies. Scrape out seeds, membranes and discard.

2. Coarsely chop chilies, transfer to processor. Add butter, garlic and lime peel, and process until smooth.

3. Season with salt to taste, then transfer to a small bowl. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

4. Grill corn until husks are blackened on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Wear oven mitts to protect hands, remove husks and silk. Serve immediately with the jalapeno-lime butter and salt.