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Ronnie Paul: Summoning the muse

Ronnie Paul
Columnist

There’s plenty of evidence that time really does fly. For instance, the new car I seemingly just bought already has 50,000 miles on it. It feels like only yesterday that I was a young, long-haired back-to-the-lander and now my granddaughter’s old enough to drive. The real clincher of time speeding by, however, is that I have another column due for The Union. Didn’t I just write one yesterday?

As this month’s deadline approaches and I continue to stare at a blank page, I search my imagination frantically for an interesting story. But sometimes a rose is only a rose, and a lemon only a lemon.

Last week, to relieve my growing anxiety, I decided to summon a writing muse. Recalling that Jane Austen and J.S. Bach never travelled further than a few miles from their homes, I concluded that my quest could be local. I set off on a neighborhood walk, broadcasting muse invitations with every step.

Would blooming Rhododendrons make a good story? How about the buzz of a chain saw? A muddy Labradoodle, a hand wave from the driver of a passing Subaru: possibilities appeared everywhere, but the muse remained aloof.

… my writing muse was either on vacation, maintaining proper social distance, or simply deemed my abilities dismal. My kitchen muse, however, is always ready to chop and stir.

I finally decided that my writing muse was either on vacation, maintaining proper social distance, or simply deemed my abilities dismal. My kitchen muse, however, is always ready to chop and stir. We both invite you to sample these recipes.

Pantry Polenta Pie

4-6 servings

I decided to use up some of my pantry supplies before my garden’s onslaught of summer veggies.

3 cups water

1 cup polenta

1 tablespoon butter

Salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pressed garlic clove

4 ounces spinach leaves

¼ cup halved pitted Kalamata olives

3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, drained of their oil

1/2 cup sliced marinated artichokes

3 ounces chicken sausage, thinly sliced

½ cup combined grated Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses

Bring the water to a boil and slowly add the polenta. Stir frequently for about 15 minutes until the mixture is thick, then turn off the flame and stir in the butter and salt.

Put the mixture in a well-greased 10-inch deep-dish pan and refrigerate for one hour. Then bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil and garlic. Add the spinach and sauté for a few minutes until the spinach just wilts.

Spread the spinach on the polenta crust and layer on the Kalamatas, tomatoes, artichokes and chicken sausage. Top with the cheese and bake for about 7 minutes until the cheese melts.

Summer Cukes

Serves 3-4

I plant lots of cucumbers because cuke salads are gobbled daily in our family. Here’s the one I just added to our repertoire.

1½ cups thinly sliced cucumbers

Salt

1 scallion, thinly sliced

2 radishes, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Dressing

Whisk together:

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce

½ teaspoon honey

1 pressed garlic clove

1 tablespoon sesame oil

To get rid of any excess liquid, put the cucumbers in a colander, salt liberally, and leave them for 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.

Mix all the ingredients with the dressing and serve to your waiting audience.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.


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