Recipes / Relationships / Susan's Food and Art

Diving in Head First and Catfish Wraps with Crunchy Cole Slaw

I feel extremely blessed to have some really strong and excellent women friends in my life.  Truly, they are the glue that keeps the picture in the frame for me.  We speak the same language, in my opinion most of them have spines that can support twice their body weight, and are there when my back needs cover no matter what the issues in the past or those that could arise in the future. They’re my friends.

I saw Chaz Bono interviewed on a talk show the other day discussing his transition from a female to a male body.  This is pertinent, why, you’re asking?  Well, he said that since assuming his male persona and the hormones and accessories congruent with the change, he can’t sit in groups of women as he used to and listen to them talk amongst each other because it drives him straight up the proverbial wall.  Apparently, this was something he did as his female self quite comfortably and enjoyed.  I just found that so interesting.  My other half is always questioning what I find to talk to with my friends that I just spoke to maybe three days prior.  There’s no answer that would make sense to him, just that we always seem to have something to say to each other, and are natural communicators.

Several weeks ago I was talking to a dear friend of mine who moved from California about ten years ago and now resides in a small town in the irrepressibly beautiful state of Oregon.  Sal and I met at a common workplace back in the early 1980′s and although losing sight of one another along the trail from time to time since then have managed to reconnect at several junctures and now remain in contact regularly despite the miles between us.

When we met, I was in the middle of my second marriage, and she was in between her first and her second.  Both of us enjoy a good laugh, or more than one, she had two boys about the same age as my son and daughter and being within a few years in age ourselves with a lot of common interests just naturally gravitated towards one another.  At the time she took a position at the company I was working for, she had just moved back to the Bay Area from Bear Valley, California.  Bear Valley is a beautiful resort area in the central Sierra Nevada Mountain range, mainly touted as a winter sports paradise but offering ample outdoor activities during the warmer summer months as well, including white water rafting, canoeing, hiking, etc. If you like the outdoors, it’s just the place to find yourself.

Three years before our paths crossed, Sal found herself divorced with two elementary aged sons, ten years of stay at home mom experience to fatten her resume and having no idea where to proceed from the spot where she was standing on.  Coming across an ad in the local paper regarding a deli for sale in Bear Valley, and having absolutely no restaurant experience other than sitting at a table and ordering a meal, she called the realtor, piled the boys in the car, drove to Bear Valley, and signed the deal on the deli as well as a condo close by.  Whoa.

It was a small deli located inside the lodge building itself which she dubbed “The Pot Belly Deli”.  Deciding to concentrate on breakfast and lunch exclusively and with one employee to support her, she set about getting the small restaurant ready to open and figuring out what to do with it when it did. Now, I’ve owned a restaurant, albeit on a larger scale, but no matter what size, unless you’re selling Coney Island dogs under a umbrella, it can be daunting endeavor, most possibly even then.  It’s not like cooking in your home.  You have to learn how to order one item that, if left over, can be incorporated into another dish. Waste is money, and money wasted means loss to the business.

Somehow Sally rolled up her sleeves and just dug in.  The small restaurant was equipped with the minimum amount of equipment necessary to make this happen.   Her sunny disposition, intelligence, and, of course, you can’t forget a large dollop of desperation as she’d sunk her savings into the deli, she went to work, allowing no room in her thoughts for failure.  After many hits and a few misses she developed a steady clientele.  The food was simple but good with unique sandwiches and crunchy cole slaw at lunch, and the menu manageable for her small staff.  She made a living, supported her boys, and had room for a treat or two along the way.

After three years of running it successfully and living in the safe bosom of the mountains she decided it was time to come back down to the nether regions and get the boys in school and herself back into the work force, and eventually complete her degree. For me that was a hugely brave thing to take on by yourself with no experience, no familiarity with the area, and no friends for support.  It’s so easy to lean back on the familiar and not dip your toe into uncharted water, but in the end I think less rewarding, than if you stick your toe in and take a chance on what wonderous things you might discover floating below the surface.

Ruts, I find, are easy to fall into to, but far more difficult to climb up out of.  Cooking at times can become routine, but if you truly have a passion for it and immerse yourself in the smells, colors, tastes, and doing of it, it’s miraculous how many creative and different ways you can find to prepare a catfish fillet or a chicken breast.  It’s just fun, at least for me, and if your attempt falls short of the mark, there’s always an artery clogging pizza just a phone call away.

Have  great day!

Catfish Wraps with Crunchy Cole Slaw

Cole Slaw

2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
5 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/4 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 1/4 cups red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup red onion, chopped

Combine all cole slaw ingredients except cabbage and red onion in mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Refrigerate until one hour prior to eating. Combine cabbages and red onion until well mixed. (I add the dressing in batches and if I have too much, refrigerate the rest for up to two weeks.) Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Wraps

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1/4 cup yellow mustard
4 6 oz. catfish fillets
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
4 9″ flour tortillas (use wheat or white as you prefer)

Garnishes

sliced English cucumbers
Lemon slices
Sliced avocado
Sour cream

Combine the first eight ingredients in a shallow pie pan. Put mustard in another shallow pie pan. Using basting brush lightly baste fillets on both sides with mustard. Dredge in flour mixture.

In med. skillet heat oil over med-high heat. Add catfish and cook 5 mins. on each side or until fish flakes easily. Remove from skillet to warmed plate.

Either wrap tortillas in tin foil and place on plate over boiling water or heat according to directions on the package until warm. Cut each fillet into four sections. Arange four pieces on each tortilla and top with cole slaw. Serve with garnishes as desired. Yummy.  Serves 4.

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