Sunday, November 21, 2010

More tragedy....and a little comfort.

Suffice to say, this has not been my year. I've already shared about my recent health crisis, but along with losing my mother almost five years ago, this next tragic story rounds out the top three worst things that have ever happened to me. So my 2002 Ford Focus wagon finally gave up the ghost when the electrical system went haywire. It always had been a little funky, but it was past the point of no return when it got stuck in park, and I had to bypass the safety feature with a screwdriver every time I started the car. It was probably going to cost more to fix it than it was worth, so I decided it was time to suck it up, face the inevitability of a car payment, and go buy something new and fully functioning.

I was excited to discover that a car dealership in town had changed over to selling Kias, and I had my eye on a cute little Java-colored Kia Soul Exclaim with all the bells and whistles, including a moon roof, which I had always wanted! I fought a tough battle with the salesmen, and I finally took ownership of the car on Monday evening, October 20th. And coming home Thursday evening, October 22nd, I totalled it. Yep, that's right. And though I've never caused an accident before, it was my fault.

I was travelling on a rural highway that had just gone from four lanes to two when I saw two cars parked on the shoulder with all their lights on. At first, I thought a police officer had someone stopped, but I didn't see any flashing lights. So then I thought someone had broken down and the other car had stopped to help. In either case, it was dark, and I couldn't see where the people were standing, so I moved over to get out of the way in case they were standing outside of their cars, as I didn't want to hit anyone. I don't know if I wasn't used to driving a larger car or if I had forgotten that I only had one lane or what, but I swerved too far over and hit the guy in the oncoming lane. THANK GOD neither of us was seriously injured, but the cars were another story. Oh well, that's why we have insurance, right?  Things can be replaced; people can't.

When you're feeling low, sometimes you just need a comforting meal. It may not make everything all better, but it sure helps in the moment. So I decided to make a big pot of a hearty beef barley soup, and to go with it, I made a very simple but tasty brown bread from a James Beard recipe that my sweet friend, Phil, sent me. And for dessert, I cheated and made a cake from a mix--Betty Crocker's Decadent Supreme Cinnamon Swirl. But it was pretty darn good, I must say. In fact, I'd say it tasted very close to a Cinnabon in cake form! And it went a long way to soothing the physical and emotional bruises of the unfortunate car accident.

Beef, Barley, and Mushroom Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. sirloin steak
2 tablespoons steak rub (or enough to coat the meat)
1 large onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, diced (I used 3 carrots and one parsnip)
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
6 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bundle thyme (or a teaspoon of dried thyme, if you prefer)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup medium (not quick-cooking) barley

In a 5-qt. Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Coat the steak(s) with your favorite spice rub, then brown the meat in the oil. Remove from the pot and add the chopped veggies (except the garlic). Cook for a few minutes until the mirepoix becomes tender and starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Meanwhile, slice up the steak and add the pieces (and any juices) back into the pot. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the beef stock, and add the seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for a couple of hours until the meat is almost as tender as you'd like. Add the barley, bring back to a boil, and simmer for another hour, give or take. Check seasoning and serve piping hot with a slice of hearty bread.

Myrtle Allen's Brown Bread
James Beard, Beard on Bread (1973)
Yield:1 loaf

3 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (100ºF to 115ºF, approximately), divided
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon salt

Put the whole-wheat flour in a large mixing bowl and place in a warm oven (a gas oven with the pilot light on or an electric oven set as low as possible). Both the flour and the bowl should be warm when you make the bread.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, and blend in the molasses. Let proof. Add another 1/2 cup water. Combine the flour, yeast mixture, and salt. Add enough warm water to make a wet, sticky dough (about 1 cup or more according to the flour). Put directly into a buttered 9 x 5 x 3-inch bread tin. Cover, set in a warm spot, allow to rise by one-third its original size. Preheat the oven and bake at 450ºF for 50 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the pan and leave on the rack in the turned-off oven for 20 minutes more to give a crustier finish.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

A good meal goes a long way. So sorry to hear about the accident. Glad that you are okay. They say when it rains it pours....Hope things turn around for you soon and 2011 turns out to be a great year!