Wednesday, October 17

Excerpt (unedited) from my WIP: Hanging By the Moment

So this is what happens when I end up without as much time as I'd wanted to blog... you get a taste of something I'm working on!
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“Make sure you wipe down ketchup and mustard bottles,” Pasha's father, Ivan Batalov, said over his shoulder as he led the way through the backdoor of the little diner. “Sharon said they looked like shit when we closed Wednesday night.”

Pasha bit his tongue on his initial sour response, that if Sharon thought the bottles needed wiping down, she should have done it herself. Sharon worked the dinner shift Monday through Thursday and had been with them for almost ten years. Little by little, she seemed to do less of her own sidework—although to be fair, she did a lot of other things for the restaurant, so maybe she figured it was some kind of fair exchange. And it wasn’t as if Pasha didn’t have time to both his work and hers in the morning—but Sharon had the same amount of dead time at the end of her shift as he had at the beginning of his. For almost three years now, Pasha had been trying to talk his father into closing up earlier, but the old man refused to budge, because once upon a time, a long time ago, they’d been busy right up until ten o’clock—eleven on the weekends—and Ivan seemed to expect it to pick back up again.

“You hear me?” he snapped when Pasha didn’t answer him right away.

Da. Yes, I heard you.”

“Then say something so I know you listening!”

Pasha held back another angry comment. The last thing anybody needed was for his dad to be in a bad mood all day because of a stupid argument over nothing. Pasha hung his coat up on the peg by the backdoor and trudged silently to the front of the restaurant to turn up the heat. Twelve dull brown upholstered booths and three small tables sat a grand total of sixty customers—sixty six if people wanted to get cozy around the tables. Another five seats were available at the counter. The walls were painted an uninspired shade of terracotta to match the terracotta colored tiles on the floor. On Wednesday Sharon had brought in the Christmas decorations and decked the halls with glittering red and green garland. Lights twinkled around every window, more garland hung around the doors, and every light fixture was tied with a festive red bow. Miniature silver Christmas trees sat on every table shedding plastic needles and artificial snow.

It was garish.

Pasha nudged up the thermostat to the permitted sixty-eight degrees before turning on the coffee machine and starting a pot of coffee, then he headed back behind the counter to turn on the radio.
“Put on news,” his dad said from the kitchen.

Pasha groaned but didn’t argue. When the old man said “news”, he didn’t mean MPR—Michigan Public Radio—or even some middle-of the road station, he meant WJR, the local home of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh wouldn’t be on until later in the day, but Pasha didn’t especially want to listen to the morning guy, either.

He put it on anyway, then pulled the plastic red and yellow ketchup and mustard bottles from the pie case behind the counter. Pasha combined the half empty bottles, then took the empties back to the dish room for his cousin Samara to wash when she came in at nine; there were just enough clean bottles on the shelf over the sink that he’d be able to set full bottles out on most of the tables.

When that was done, he cut lemons, filled plastic soufflĂ© cups with salad dressing, brought clean dishes up from the back, stocked jam and jelly, and filled up the sugar, salt, and pepper shakers and at six o’clock, he turned on the neon “open” sign and unlocked the front door—and saw a huge black and silver delivery truck sitting there, taking up nearly half their little parking lot. Crap. If his dad saw it, he would have a conniption. Despite it being barely thirty-two degrees outside, Pasha decided to forgo his coat; he didn’t want his father asking why was going out.

As he approached the big black truck, the driver rolled down the window and leaned out. “Hey,” he said in a friendly tone that caught Pasha off guard.

But it wasn’t the guy’s tone that stopped him dead in his tracks. The truck driver was… damn, he was gorgeous! Pasha hadn’t thought truck drivers were supposed to be so…he wasn’t sure whether to call the guy handsome or beautiful. He had caramel colored skin, high cheekbones, and jet black hair hanging in a loose braid that draped over one shoulder. But what really held Pasha’s attention were the incredible chocolate brown eyes and full, bow shaped lips, that were curled up in a warm smile. And he realized he was staring. Pasha shifted his weight and let his glance slide away from the guy’s face.  “You ah, you’re blocking our lot. We just opened up.” And even if he didn’t expect a lineup out the door, his dad would go ballistic if he saw the truck sitting in their lot.

“Sorry about that. My GPS died and I’m trying to get someone on the phone to help me figure out where I am, but nobody’s picking up in the office. Which I guess isn’t your problem.” The trucker sounded apologetic, embarrassed. “I’ll get out of your lot.” He leaned back into the cab. 

Which should have been the end of it—except that Pasha took a step closer to the truck, and let himself look back up at the man’s face again. “Where are you trying to get to?” he asked

The trucker leaned back out his window. “Jay’s Party Store. Any chance it’s around here somewhere?”

“Sorry, never heard of it. What street is it on?”

“Wattles.”

“Jheeze, you really are lost.”

He flashed a rueful little smile. “Story of my life. I don’t suppose you could help me get un-lost?”
Pasha laughed at the guy’s unusual way of phrasing the question. “Wattles is Seventeen Mile Road. You’re at Twelve and Main.”

The explanation didn’t seem to help.
\
Pasha curled his hands against his lips and blew on his fingers to warm them up before assuring the guy that it was easy to get to from here. “You just need to get back out on Main Street,” he began.

“You wanna hop in out of the cold?”

Pasha hesitated—but seriously, what was the guy going to do, drive off with him as a hostage? And I could think of worse fates…. Heat crept into his cheeks. “Yeah, thanks.”

Instead of motioning him around to the passenger’s side, the trucker opened up the driver’s side door and slid over, making room for Pasha behind the massive steering wheel. “I’m the one who should be saying ‘thank you’,” he said. “It’s been one of those days from the get-go.”

Pasha smiled. “Same here.” He clambered awkwardly into the cab; the delivery truck wasn’t as big as a semi, but it was a whole lot larger than his father’s old El Dorado. “I can’t believe this weather,” he said as he shut the door behind him. “It’s not even December yet and I swear it’s going to snow today.”

“They’re saying up to four inches,” the trucker told him.

Pasha groaned.

“Not a fan of snow?”

“Not a fan of shoveling snow.”

“No arguments there. I’m Daniel, by the way.” The driver pulled off one his heavy work gloves and held out his hand.

“Pasha.”

“Interesting name.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Pasha lied. “Interesting” was one of the nicest thing people had to say about his name. Most people seemed to think it was a girl’s name—of course most people thought Nikita was a girl’s name too. Only Uncle Nikki didn’t grow up over here. “Pasha’s sort of short of Pavel,” he explained. “Which is Russian for Paul. I tried going by that for a while, but…” but he was babbling. “Sorry. You’re probably more interested in getting back on the road.”

“Only because I have to get this stuff delivered by seven or my boss is going to have my ass. And not in a fun way.” Daniel’s brows shot up and his lips curled into a mischievous grin.

Pasha blinked—then gave himself a good mental shake. No way this guy meant that the way it had sounded. Statistically speaking only one, maybe two, out of ten men were gay which meant that no matter where he went, the odds would always be against him meeting another gay man—except at a gay bar. And if I ever ran into this guy there, he wouldn’t even give me the kind brush off Bobby did. If they ran into each other in the bar, Daniel wouldn’t even look at Pasha, let alone speak to him. The only reason Daniel was talking to him now was that he needed to get “un-lost” so he could make his delivery on time.

Pasha cleared his throat. “The ah, the easiest way to get to Wattles from here is get out onto Main, that’s the street out front there, and just head north—left. Main turns into Livernois a couple miles up when you hit Clawson at Fourteen Mile,” he added. Then asked, “What city are you looking for?”

“Troy, somewhere near a street called Dequinder.” He didn’t sound real sure of himself.

“You should be there no time,” Pasha promised. “When you get to Wattles, make a right. Dequinder’s just a couple miles down.”

The warmth in Daniel’s smile made butterflies start flapping in Pasha’s stomach. “Thanks. You’re a real life saver.”

“Any time,” Pasha told him.

“Guess I’ll have to remember that the next time I get lost out this way,” Daniel teased. “Or maybe I should get lost on purpose, just to have an excuse to come back and see you again.”

Pasha’s heart hammered in his chest. Daniel was flirting with him, he had to be! But why on earth would a guy who looked like Daniel flirt with him? Daniel could walk into Menjo’s any night of the week and have his pick of the men lined up the bar. Hell, Bobby would probably offer to buy him a drink.

“Well, I ah, I guess I should let you get back to work,” Daniel said with an amicable little smile, and maybe… maybe a hint of disappointment in his tone? “Thanks again for helping me get back on track here.”

Pasha as sure he was reading way too much into Daniel’s expression; stuff like this just didn’t happen to guys like him. But how could he pass up even half a chance with someone who had a smile like Daniel’s? Worst case scenario, he was wrong about the whole thing, Daniel was straight, or just not into him. Daniel would blow him off and they’d never see each other again. “Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee or something before you hit the road?” he asked before he lost his nerve.
“I wish I could, Sugar, but I’m behind schedule as it is.”

“Yeah. Right. Sorry.” Duh. He knew that. Now the only question was whether or not that was a polite excuse or—

“You ah… you here all morning?”

Oh God. “All morning, every morning.”

“What, no time off for good behavior?” Daniel teased.

Pasha grinned. “Who says I behave?”

Daniel’s brows shot up and Pasha felt his cheeks growing hot. He’d never quite figured out how to flirt; sometimes he managed to say something funny, but most of the time, he fell flat on his face. “I ah… it’s a family business. There’s no such thing as time off when you’re the owner’s son.” Face, meet pavement.

But Daniel’s smile softened. “I guess I know where to find you, then.”

“Yeah. I ah… yeah, I’d like that. I mean…I… you can come back anytime you want. I… just… yeah. I’d better go.” While I have a single shred of dignity left!

“I’ll see you around, Sugar.”

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Today's recipe is for one of my favorite dishes--and it's appropriate because both Daniel and Pasha LOVE oriental food!


·        8 oz ricotta or mascarpone cheese
(I prefer the latter, but it is pricier;
ricotta comes in low fat/no fat options, I don’t think mascarpone has the lower fat optiosn)
·        8 oz cream cheese (at room temp) (you can buy low fat/no fat if you like)
·        ¼ cup sour cream (could sub. plain Greek yogurt for lower fat/healthier alternative)
·        2 packages imitation crab meat OR a cup of real crab meat (I never recommend canned, but it is an option)
·        2 green onions sliced thin (including the stems—IMO the stems are the best part!)
If you don’t have or want to buy green onions, you can sub a couple of tablespoons of dried chives (or fresh, but unless you’re like me and have chives overflowing in your garden, dried is the best option)
·        2 cloves of garlic, minced very fine
·        Ginger, minced very fine (enough for about a teaspoon’s worth—if you sub dried ginger, you’ll only need about half a teaspoon) – if you’re like me and LOVE ginger, yes, you can add a little more!  (I seriously usually double the ginger in this recipe, but I figure not everybody loves it as much as I do).
·        2 Tablespoons soy sauce
·        Juice from half a lemon (I never, EVERY use bottled lemon juice, it just does not taste the same!)
·        1 teaspoon honey
·        2 pkg. wonton wrappers…or if you’re like me, and a) a little lazy or b) just never have them on hand, you can substitute with filo dough and make little crab pies. The method for the filo dough is the same as for spinach pie, but instead of one big pie, I make a bunch of smaller ones, about the size of a single sheet of filo (layered, of course! One sheet of filo is way too thin. I layer four or five sheets, with a little olive oil in between—or sometimes sesame oil if I’m in the mood—plop down a little mix in the middle, then pull up the filo very carefully to make a pie-thing. Okay, not the best directions in the world, but once you’re doing it, you’ll see what I mean. The oil does a pretty good job of holding the layers together.)
·        In any case, you’ll need oil, either for frying or baking. I usually use olive (my go-to oil for everything), but have recently discovered soy oil and like it quite a lot. If you like the flavor of sesame, you can use some or all sesame oil for baking/frying. It’s a matter of taste. Remember, olive oil takes higher heat than just about every other oil out there! Adjust the flame under your pan (if frying) accordingly.
·        Feeling experimental/healthy? How about adding a cup or so of chopped up spinach?
·        I’m thinking artichokes would probably taste pretty good in this too… maybe the next time I make it, I’ll add….half a can? That sounds about right. Maybe a little less. Might have to up the cheese a bit to compensate, I like things…erm. Creamy.

But first…
Whip together the sour cream, cream cheese, mascarpone/ricotta cheese; blend in the lemon juice, soy, and honey, then the herbs/spices. Lastly, fold in your crab/krab meat. Remember to moisten the edges of your wonton wrappers to get them to stick.
Then it’s just a matter of stuffing your wontons, making your “pie-thing” and cooking. Most folks fry wontons, you can bake them (350 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes or so, just until they’re golden brown).  
A fun alternative would be to make crab Rangoon ravioli (just thought of that). I love fusion food. For ravioli, all you’d need to do is make your pasta dough—maybe add in a little lemon and soy right into the dough mix…hmmm…. Parsley too, that would make it pretty. Anyway, then roll it out, cut (with cookie cutter, upturned glass—my method—or fancy ravioli maker) and stuff with Rangoon mix. Nummies! I’d serve it with maybe a light garlic and ginger sauce.
Okay, if you beat me to it, here’s a basic pasta recipe:
2 egg
2 cup of flour
3 T. water (or other liquid such as lemon juice, soy…wine)
Yup, it’s that simple.
Combine ingredients in a bowl, then roll out onto a floured surface and knead, adding a little more flour or water as necessary
(I use our mixer and use the bread hook attachment to knead it right in the bowl)
To this basic recipe you can add garlic powder, chopped (very finely chopped) herbs, minced/mushed spinach…just about anything you can dream up, you can add.
You will need a pasta roller (cheap) and some patience (priceless!)
Cut the rolled pasta into the desired shape (I do recommend a pasta cutter or extruder for spaghetti and other long noodles) and let it dry for an hour or so and boil. You DO need to refrigerate un-cooked homemade pasta. I honestly only make up as much as I need for whatever I’m making. If there’s a lot of leftover dough, I’ll freeze it for later.

Happy cooking!



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