Musical pairing – Beautiful Eyes by Taylor Swift
It’s quiet this morning except for a train somewhere off in the distance . . . I don’t know where that train is going but it’s these moments when I’m present enough to actually hear its whistle, I wonder where those tracks begin and end. I haven’t slept much in the last several days . . . life is turned upside down . . . and with it, my lack of focus, my lack of drive to accomplish checking items off my ‘to-do’ list . . .
The Professor has left for campus this morning, the cats are sleeping in various positions stationed around the perimeter of our great room; the sun has not yet risen but I occasionally hear the call of a bird outside and if I peer through my windows, I can barely see the outline of what’s left of the leaves on the trees. I should be accomplishing my morning routine . . . planning tonight’s dinner, running the sweeper, finishing a load of laundry and hitting the treadmill, then pilates or a bit of yoga before I start to clean off my desk in the office.
Instead I’m thinking about Alice . . . her siblings, her mother and my son . . . navigating this road, this uncharted territory . . . for when a child is born with a terminal illness and you somewhat plan for somewhere ‘down the road’ . . . ‘down the road’ suddenly sneaks up from behind, grabs you by the throat in a choke-hold and you can’t move . . . you discover that you just didn’t see ‘down the road’ coming . . . you didn’t plan properly . . .
I am flooded with sweet memories of Alice . . . dark brown hair in pigtails, white ankle socks with frilly lace, chipped ‘goth’ nail polish, a tattoo in the small of her back, big brown eyes hidden by even bigger sunglasses and a laugh and a smile that melts your heart the moment she freely shares. In typical teenager form, Alice prefers salty chips, sweet candy, Starbucks caramel lattes and pepperoni pizza . . . I am betting she would turn her nose up at this chicken . . . I think she’s much more a fried chicken kinda girl . . . but then again, she might surprise me and take the teensiest taste just to see if I’m right when I say it’s one of the best baked chicken recipes I’ve ever made . . . I’d also forgive her if she still prefers fried . . .
SMITH BITES NOTE: I wrote this post yesterday morning and life changed this afternoon; Alice is being taken off all support tonight and will be going home soon . . . she is tired, she’s in pain, her body is weak and she told her dad that she is ready to go . . . and I love her enough to tell her we’ll be ok . . . and we will be ok . . . thank you so much for your prayers, your words of encouragement, for your kindness . . . it means the world to me and my family.
HARISSA CHICKEN WITH OLIVES
Ever so slightly adapted from Donna Hay
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 8 cloves unpeeled garlic
- 1 cup mixed olives (I used Costco brand of marinated olives, green & kalamata mix)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon harissa paste
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
- ½ cup chicken stock (I use ‘Better Than Bouillon’ brand)
- pinch of cinnamon
- 2 sets of tomatoes still on stems (I used a mid-sized cherry tomato but Romas would work well too)
FOR THE GREMOLATA: (don’t skip this part – it absolutely makes the dish!)
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup cilantro (omit if you don’t like and add more parsley)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (zest the lemon first, then juice)
- 2 cloves minced garlic (you want this as fine as you can get it so use a mincer or smash, then finely chop)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Salt/pepper chicken thighs on both sides and place in 9×13 pan
- Add garlic and olives to the pan distributing somewhat evenly
- In a small bowl combine tomato paste, harissa, brown sugar, chicken stock and pinch of cinnamon; mix well to combine and pour over chicken, garlic and olives
- Another pinch of salt/pepper over everything; cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour
- Increase oven temp to 400 degrees, remove foil and add the tomatoes; roast for another 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through
- Serve topped with gremolata and a bit of couscous on the side