“One of these days, I’m gonna do it again — yes sir!” — Jimmy Durante

July 19, 2010

An executive at my former company once told me that his wife kept a list posted in their kitchen entitled “People Mark is going to call some day.” This subject came up because I had written a column about my dissatisfaction about the way Nabisco packages graham crackers. I called the 800 number on the box, and talked to a sympathetic woman who — it seemed clear — wouldn’t do anything about my complaint. If Mark ever called anyone on that list, I hope he got better results than I did.

As for the list itself, I guess it represents an almost universal tendency in us humans to intend to do more things than we actually do. That certainly is a tendency of mine, but last night I did scratch one off the list — which in our household is figurative.

Specifically, I made stuffed zucchini for dinner – or, as we of Lebanese ancestry call it – stuffed koosa — koosa being an Arabic term for “squash.” I’ve been talking about making that dish since well before my mother died, which was more than 10 years ago. We even went so far as to buy the type of knife that is made specifically to hollow out the zucchini before stuffing it with a mixture of meat, rice, onions, and garlic. That knife lay in a drawer in our kitchen since at least 2002 — maybe longer. Whenever I’d reach for something else and impale my hand on that knife, I would repeat my intention: “One of these days . . . .”

This had become a joke between Pat and me, but for some reason — in the past week or ten days — procrastination morphed into a real plan. Pat brought home some zucchini, as she often does in the summer, and I said I should stuff them — not the hypothetical zucchini of the past decade, but those particular zucchini — and that I should do it on Thursday. Conflicts arose, Thursday became Friday, and then Friday became Saturday. Saturday, as it turned out, was not some day, but the day. I followed a simple recipe I found at THIS LINK, and I was a success — which in this case means that I turned out stuffed koosa the way I remember it from home.

Since it was my first attempt at this enterprise, I conceded a point to the author of the recipe and used allspice. Normally, when I cook Lebanese food, I use cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, and I monkey around with the proportions as I go until I’m satisfied with the taste. Next time.

I have mentioned here before that I maintain my intimacy with departed family members through certain kinds of food that I associate with them. With respect to my paternal grandmother and my mother, this is especially effective because they both were excellent cooks and they both loved to cook and to feed other people. I’m not one to moon over the people I miss – and I do miss my mother. I’d rather get up to my wrists in onions, garlic and zucchini, knowing how she would laugh at the sight, how she would nudge me if my hand got too heavy with the salt, how she would call me a “crazy kid,” even at this age, and how she would tell me — even if it weren’t true — that I had done well.

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3 Responses to ““One of these days, I’m gonna do it again — yes sir!” — Jimmy Durante”

  1. bronxboy55 Says:

    I’m sure you did well. They look delicious. Is there a vegetarian version, maybe just without the meat?

    What was the complaint about the graham crackers? Was it that once you opened the paper-wrapped crackers, there was no way to close them back up? I’ve always had a problem with that.

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    If you search on “stuffed zucchini” and “vegetarian” you’ll find quite a few recipes. I also saw one that called for bulgur wheat — which we also use in tabouleh — and ground turkey.

    You’re right. My complaint is that Nabisco stopped using that brown paper to wrap the stacks of graham crackers and substituted cellophane, which can’t be re-closed. What I find annoying is Nabisco still uses the brown paper on sugar wafers. Graham crackers, as you probably know, quickly absorb moisture. I explained that to the woman who answered the 800 number, and she couldn’t have been more compassionate. Compassion, as the saying goes, doesn’t walk the dog.

  3. Chef Portia Says:

    I can’t wait to make these this summer. Hoping my local farmers market will have this type of squash at some point! My own grandmother made it with lamb, but beef sounds delicious too!

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