A RED letter day

Recently I’ve been dealing with some career path disappointment. This one, however, stung a bit more because it involved playing with the idea of a completely new path. While the dream itself is not altogether dead, the realization that it could be caused me to enlist extra efforts to stave off the gathering black clouds in my brain. Yet surprisingly, rather than swimming around in the gloom, the blues quickly turned to seeing red. As in a REALLY PISSED OFF RED! Anger is a funny thing. While we are taught to ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘take the high road’, ‘go to the balcony’ or ‘be the better person’, sometimes it becomes necessary to go medieval on someone’s ass. But with the rules of decorum (and laws) being what they are, finding the appropriate outlet for releasing the Kraken within can be a challenge. For me, it’s easy. I write an F-YOU letter. This is actually a practiced technique in my family and it works pretty well. Of course we NEVER mail the thing, tempting as that may be. Rather, we use it as an effective tool for getting out all the bile that banks up in one’s soul, allowing us to metaphorically shove it in face of a richly deserving addressee. Once the letter is written and its vitriol aimed in the appropriate direction, it is burned. I have heard the original instructions for disposal involved taking it into the bathroom with you and “disposing” of it in a different manner. However, being delicate flowers ourselves, we chose arson as our preferred method. Should you choose to employ the F-YOU letter technique yourself, the mode of disposal is completely up to you.

So, to purge my recent anger and avoid ripping the heads off of those I love or some poor unsuspecting barista in my favorite coffee shop, I wrote the letter below. And since we are all in some way fellow travelers through the current crappy economy quagmire, I share it with you and welcome you to use it too. True, it may not change anything, but it will make you feel a little better.

Dear Recession,

You evil, soulless, vile, despicable rat-bastard! Who the hell do you think you are to take our hopes and dreams and grind them under your pernicious foot like you are snuffing out a smoldering cigar butt on pavement? Our homes, jobs, plans and financial security all gone in a puff of your economically cancerous smoke. Achievements, goals and dreams are like dry kindling for your campfire, our college funds, retirement accounts and hard-earned savings just marshmallows to char and shove into your grotesque gaping maw. None of us deserved your cruelty and I want retribution, now. We’re talking HELLFIRE AND PESTILENCE RETRIBUTION!!! The kind Moses threw at Pharaoh, or Charlton Heston threw at Yul Brenner, whichever is worse! However, since my access to locusts, frogs, fire and brimstone are somewhat limited, and biblical-type retribution seems a bit dated, I’ve created a more modern list “plagues” to set upon you and your lackeys. Rest assured, I feel no karmic conflict wishing you the worst, you soul-sucking scum. You deserve all you get and more, and I have no doubt Mother Theresa, Gandhi AND the Dali Llama would be on my side on this.

My list of wraith is as follows: (For those of you playing along, this is a ‘working list’, so feel free to make your own addendum. Retribution is FUN!)

Plague #1:  You will lose your job in a reputation ruining and deeply embarrassing scandal involving inappropriate investments, orthopedic shoes, a really bad haircut and a particular farm animal. Your actions make you ineligible for any severance, golden parachute or unemployment payments, and you become the running joke for months on Letterman, Leno and the Fashion Police. Criminal charges from the SEC, FBI, Vogue, the Hairdressers of America and PETA are pending.

Plague #2:  Your new young, nubile trophy wife (for whom you abandoned the good woman who put you through college, you slime ball) will leave you for a younger, better-looking and penniless poet/artist/farmer (that poor cow had to come from somewhere.) Of course, they won’t be penniless for long since the soon-to-be ex takes you for everything you’ve got.

Plague #3:  The only work you will be able to find is as lime juicer at an all-you-can-drink margarita bar in Cabo during spring break, made even more hellish and painful due to your hands covered in paper cuts from rifling through financial statements in a desperate attempt to find where your ex hid all of your “hidden”assets. She may have looked like an airhead porn star when you met her, but her MBA from Wharton (with honors) seems to have paid off quite nicely.


There, I feel much better. Now let’s get to some cooking!  Since red is the theme today, what better than a sauce made with gorgeous red peppers! And since we are into fiery retribution, I’m torching these little jewels for my  Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  A gorgeous and creamy orange-red sauce, it’s terrific on pasta, grilled meats, fish, shrimp or chicken, makes a delicious base for soup, and if chilled is a lovely light dip for crudite or chips. Or, add equal parts pepper sauce and mayo for a terrific red pepper mayonaise. All in all, it’s the perfect accompaniment for a RED letter day!

Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Makes about 1 1/3 cups sauce

  • 3 red peppers (about 1 ¼ lbs, or about 10 oz. of peeled and seeded flesh)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion (½ a small onion)
  • 1 small clove garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ TBSP toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 tsp white balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar or good white wine vinegar (red balsamic will change the beautiful color of the sauce)
  • 1 ½ TBSP creamy goat cheese
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Roast the peppers:  The easiest way to do this is on an outdoor grill, but since I don’t have a grill but do have a gas stove, I do this on my stove top. I lay the pepper on the grate over a medium flame, watch them carefully and turn them until they are charred on all sides. And I never walk away from them (it is an open flame after all). If the prospect of this makes you a little nervous or you don’t have a gas stove, these can be done under the broiler, and I have even done them under the broiler in my toaster oven. They don’t get as much char, but they do roast nicely, and the end result is basically the same.  You can also buy the peppers already roasted. For me, playing with kitchen pyrotechnics has a certain appeal and making them myself is ultimately cheaper, especially if red peppers are on sale.

Once the peppers are charred all over, put them in a bowl and seal it well with cling film so the peppers steam a little. This will help the skins come off more easily. Let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. Once they are, peel them and remove the seeds and pith carefully. There may be some steam left inside the pepper, and the liquid inside could still be quite hot. I peel them over a bowl so any juices are saved. Do NOT peel them under running water or you’ll be washing a lot of good flavor down the drain.

When you have everything cleaned, add it to the blender, along with any accumulated juices in the bowl (I strain the bowl over the blender). Puree the peppers and set aside. Don’t clean the blender — you’ll be using it again to puree the final sauce.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. You don’t want to color, just soften. Add in the thyme and sauté for a minute. Add in the pepper puree, vinegar, salt, pepper and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and turn down to a low simmer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes turn heat off and pour the sauce into the blender. Add the almonds, goat cheese, lemon juice and zest. Puree the sauce until it is smooth (using good “hot liquid in blender” technique – center plug out, cover hole with towel, and start on low before turning to high or all that pretty and hot orange sauce will be all over your pretty white kitchen walls and you.)

Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed, or adding a little more lemon juice if you like. Calories: about 240 in 1 1/3 cups sauce, or 60 per 1/3-cup serving.


4 thoughts on “A RED letter day

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