Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Candy Club

I had been waiting for my sister Laura to come home for the last hour. We attended separate schools and I always made better time on my royal blue 10-speed than she did on the rickety yellow school bus that brought her home. (My sister had been admitted to a school for gifted children the year before. A school, I might add, that denied me 3 years in a row. This was certainly a gaping wound on my part and one that my sister often enjoyed dousing with salt.) I sat on the front porch playing with the roly polies and trailing the lines between the big red bricks that made up our stairs with my finger. Finally, she turned the corner and walked up our driveway. I yelled from the porch, "Hey you wanna go to the little store?" My sister and I asked each other this question at least four times a week. The little store was just that: a ram-shackled little building about three blocks from our house that resembled an "old-tyme" general store with an ethnic twist. The back of the store was stocked with frozen vegetables and meats, and right next to the pig trotters, popsicles. (I only ever grabbed a popsicle when in dire need.) The left side of the store was stocked with beer and liquor while for us children, the right side was dedicated entirely to candy. The old man behind the counter always recognized us but rarely offered a smile. I'm sure he thought we were just biding our time before pick-pocketing our favorite items. Which was true. I had dreamed of hijacking the place and escaping with every last bit of candy on the shelves. However, this sugar fueled fantasy was nothing compared to the sweet devotion of my sister Laura, aka, "the candy queen".

Of course all children love sweets, but Laura took it to a entirely new level. While my mother craved green vegetables and salads when pregnant with me, she inhaled every candy, cake and chocolate bar in Ventura County while Laura was in the womb. My sister was literally made out of sugar. And so our respective preferences were shaped. I ate vegetables constantly and Laura hoarded candy in her room. Many times we didn't even know the stash was there until a conspicuous trail of ants blew her cover. About a decade later she was outed by my cousin's dog who found a hidden donut in my sister's overnight bag. I thought she was going to KILL that dog! Every Halloween we laid out our "bag of crap", as my father lovingly called it, to swap Abbazabbas for Snickers bars and haggle over the price of Red Hots. My sister owned her sweet tooth and quickly decided that everything should taste like candy. Like when my parents attempted to get her to stop sucking her middle and index fingers by saying, "Laura, your fingers are dirty and they must taste terrible!" "Nope," she smirked. "They taste like chocolate!"

So these were the two little devils that entered the little store. Two candy junkies looking for a fix whose mother had no idea what they poured down their throats four times a week. Laura immediately went for the chewy, fruity stuff like Starbursts, Now and Laters, and Skittles, while I stuck to the Red Hots, Fireballs, Skor bars (AMAZING!) and Lemon Heads. Our choices certainly revealed our personalities: one child sweet and bizarrely malleable, and the other, a rare combo of a sour and spicy. We walked back home in a sugar haze, almost blinded by the effects of sucrose coursing through our veins. Once home we promptly got into a fight and usually had to be separated. (See what happens when you have too much Yellow #5? I remember reading labels even back then and thinking, "Eating something with a number on it can't be good for me.")

As the years went by we became experimental, like when our babysitter Jessica Woodcock (P.S. I just recently realized the hilarity of her last name) showed us how to soften a jolly rancher stick in the microwave and wrap it around a blow pop to make the largest lollipop ever! We'd throw our multi-colored sucker monstrosities into the freezer for a quick cooling then eat them over the next few hours until our mother got home. Unfortunately, the ginormous lollipop factory shut down only after a few months when Laura turned the microwave on high and cooked the jolly rancher until it liquefied and almost caught fire.

I don't know when we stopped going to the little store. We got older, our tastes changed, and eventually our family moved from the neighborhood. Of course, now in my chosen profession as a whole foods crusader, it's shocking to think I was ever such a sugar fiend. Who knew it would come to this! Thank goodness Laura still keeps the little store flame alive by keeping mini snickers bars in her purse and hard candies in the car. My younger sister has never forgotten her roots, and holds on to them as tightly as I now grasp my kale. Ah, the candy queen lives on! She says it's her duty to make up for all the candy I'm not eating.

Well, I guess someone's got to do it.

Balsamic and Butter Glazed Frittata
Served 4

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

For those of you expecting a "healthy" candy recipe, I'm sorry to disappoint. I'm actually working on a relatively healthy toffee recipe which I will post as soon as it's ready. Promise! In the meantime, when you need something sweet, try this frittata. Eggs, you say? Absolutely. The caramelized red onions give it a nice smoky sweetness and the reduced buttery balsamic glaze just puts it over the top. SO GOOD!

2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, Bariani is the best
Salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic butter or ghee
¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Warm the olive oil in a 10 inch skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook over medium heat until they are golden, about 30 minutes. Add half the vinegar, let it reduce, and add in the cloves and a touch of salt. Preheat the broiler.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs. Season with salt and add in the onions and parsley. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet (you do not need to clean it out from the onions) until it is sizzling. Add the eggs and lower the heat. Scatter the walnuts on top and cook until the eggs are set and browned on the bottom, about 8-10 minutes. Slide the pan 6 inches under the broiler to finish cooking the top, about 2 minutes. Take care not to burn the walnuts.

Loosen the frittata and tilt it onto a serving plate. Return the skillet to the stove and raise the heat. Add the remaining teaspoon of butter and when it melts, add the remaining vinegar. Slide the pan back and forth to combine the two then pour the mixture over the eggs. Enjoy!

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