I have a confession. I killed a mouse the other day and it's still haunting me. Let's start from the beginning. I had one mouse (or so I thought), but then it was mice. People tell me, “If you see one, that means there are [eight more], [twenty more], [fifty more], or [one hundred more]!" depending on who you never ask but they tell you anyways. Thank you for the terrifying information but stop. I already have anxiety and nightmares about it. Before you go judging me for killing an animal, you must know a few things first. Then you can judge all you want.
1. I was raised by a woman who grew up on a modest farm. Killing animals was a regular way of life and necessary to put food on the table. My grandfather loved to tease me about animal slaughter. I guess that was his idea of humour and liked seeing my face get all screwed up into sheer terror. While eating roast beef during Easter dinners he would say, “I caught that bloody Easter bunny by the tail, snatched him up and skinned him. Oh he tastes good, doesn't he?!". He likes to get a rise out of people and will go to great lengths to do so. Grandpa facts: He is from rural England, he is always drinking tea and everything that annoys him is “the devil". Which incidentally made “the devil" seem far less scary because “road construction is the devil", “that squirrel in the garden is the devil" and “the ruddy speed limit signs are the devil". Therefore, general annoyances = the devil. Hell is a place where you stub your toes, get a million invites for Candy Crush and only use dull knives to cut tomatoes. Sounds like a regular day for me so I don't think I'd mind hell to be honest.
My grandfather would slaughter chickens, pluck them and hang them upside down (to dry? Is that why? I still don't know). After he butchered them, my mum would chase me around pulling the tendon of a chicken foot so it was forced into a grabby claw. She would hide behind corners and poke the chicken claw out grasping the air while cackling, “It's coming for you Meggie! Meh-heh-heh-heeehhhhh!!!". It terrified me and she thought it was hilarious. Clearly she got her sense of humour from my grandfather. In hind sight it was hilarious– I don't blame her at all. But it was also traumatic at age 5. So this is who raised me.
2. The second thing you should know is I've been dealing with this mouse problem for months now. Sleepless nights are common with my new heightened level of anxiety. If democracy rules, is it their home now? Or mine because I was here first? I put out tons of traps– nothing. Not a single one caught. I put out poison (I've already accepted hell so at this point anything goes). Apparently they can live off of poison and not die. Wtf!? I googled it and the poison used for mouse extermination is a blood thinner.
Me: “A blood thinner!?! Why isn't it something more poisony like in olden times when you needed to kill your abusive husband, like arsenic or deadly nightshade?! I've always wanted to brew up some deadly nightshade!" Friend: “Uhhhhh because those are lethal and they could kill you or other humans and pets." Me: “Oh haha! Right. I was just kidding... obviously."
These guys are intelligent terminator-evolved mice. Poison is their bitch and they literally eat it for breakfast. One night I grabbed a flashlight and shined it right on a mouse. He looked at me and I glared right back at him– the ultimate stare down. Then I yelled, “THIS IS NOT YOUR HOME!!! YOU DON'T LIVE HERE!!! I DO!!!". He scurried away but didn't listen to me. He continues to live here.
So I killed a mouse. I consider myself a very sensitive and loving person, especially with animals. Unless! You mess with my sanity and push me too far. Then I turn into a complete psych. A storm is unleashed and I go all Mommie Dearest. It takes a lot. But it happens on a rare occasion like this one. A mouse was out in the middle of the day acting like he owned the place and sh*t! Wandering around, staring at me like, “oh it's just you". I was all, “Ohhh NO! Not this time motherf$%ker! Not on my watch!" He sat behind small chest so I grabbed it, lifted it up and slammed it down. That was it. I was relieved but also felt terrible. I had no choice though, right? I couldn't let him think we were friends and both live here like, “Oh hey Frank, how's it going?! Why don't you bring your thirty brothers and sisters over for dinner tonight– I have a ton of crumbs and don't know what to do with them". Oh no. No no.
I feel bad this had to happen but also– circle of life, right!?
Speaking of mouse fertility, this recipe has me all summer's-in-the-air. Fire up the barbecue and let the smell of char and smoke waft through the air. Some fresh lemon juice and herbs for daydreaming in warm breezes and feeling the sunshine on your skin. This meal is a very easy one to make, although takes a bit of time. But in a nice way. In a, put on some music and pour yourself a glass of wine while you grill things way.
Ajvar (pronounced eye-var) is a spread or sauce popular in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. It is perfect on a crust of bread with some butter and topped with feta or goat cheese but is versatile in it's condiment claim. I gave a jar to my friend from Romania and she ate it within twenty four hours on every meal– on bread, with eggs, and as a burger topping. Take a note from her and add it to anything and everything.
CHARRED AJVAR, EGG + DUKKAH TOAST
inspiration: Eastern European grocery stores
the feels: smoky, spreadable + good for dolloping
eat with: bread, dukkah, as a base for or on top of eggs, on labneh/greek yogurt, crumbly cheese, hummus, baba ganoush, on toast with butter + goat/feta cheese, on pasta, in sandwiches, alongside grilled/roasted meat, on top of burgers, or with fresh herbs + olive oil.
might like if you're into: antipasta, preserves, cooking with fire, tapas, meals at picnic tables, ketchup, the balkans, Eastern European preserves, sharing platters, campfires.
makes 2 cups ajvar || time: 1.5 hour
- 1 large eggplant or 2 baby eggplants
- 3 red bell peppers
- 1/2 spanish onion, diced
- 2 - 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/4 cup herbs, chopped (parsley, basil, cilantro, mint – one tablespoon of each)
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, to your taste or a fresh hot chile pepper. I like a good amount of heat to cut the sweetness of the peppers.
- black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- slice of nice bread, toasted
- handful of arugula
- egg, fried sunny side
- dukkah (buy from a market or make your own)
- drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, optional
- I charred my roasted red peppers on my charcoal barbecue grill (with no oil). [If you don't have a barbecue, here are other ways to char red peppers– you can use the same method for the eggplant.] Char each side of the peppers for about 5 minutes (or until the side is black), turning them a quarter turn every time. Afterwards, once the coals were all ashy and burning red with no black left, I lifted the grate off and placed the eggplants directly on the coals. Cook for about 10 minutes on one side and then urn them over to char the other side for another 10 minutes or so. They should be falling in on themselves and covered in ash.
- Once you remove the vegetables from the grill, immediately place them in a large bowl and cover with saran wrap or aluminum foil. The vegetables will steam themselves and release their skin easier. Wait about 10 minutes or until they are cool enough to touch.
- While the vegetables are steaming, place a saucepan over medium to high heat on the stove. Add olive oil, diced onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté onions for a few minutes until translucent, reduce heat to medium. You can continue to cook the onions down for more caramelization if you like. Add garlic and sauté for a few more minutes until garlic is fragrant.
- Remove peppers and eggplant from bowls, peel the skins off and discard. Add eggplant, peppers, sautéed onions + garlic, and all the remaining ajvar ingredients to a food processor or blender. Pulse until desired consistency. I like mine a bit chunkier than totally pureed.
- Place olive oil in a pan on the stove over medium heat. When hot, add chile flakes or fresh chile peppers and sauté for a few minutes. Add pepper and eggplant mix to pan and turn to medium-low. Let simmer without lid, stirring occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes or until you are happy with the taste. (Sometimes I add a splash of balsamic vinegar at this point if I feel like it needs a bit more of a punch).
- Let cool and place ajvar in airtight container or mason jar and keep in the fridge for one week. You may also freeze ajvar if you think you might not eat it within that time.
ajvar, egg + dukkah toast
- Fry your egg and toast your bread. Spread on a good layer of avjar onto the toast, add arugula, lay egg on top, add a drizzle of olive oil if desired and cover in dukkah.