Meeting people on the dance floor can be a little strange. You see them on the dance floor. You smile. You might dance beside them. Heck, you might just dance with one another, but forget their name just as fast as a tuck turn. It takes time to build a friendship when chatting in short spurts in the seconds between songs. Just after Mystery Man and I married we met another Swing dancing couple who recently moved to the area. Through the fits and starts of communicating at dances we learned we had a lot in common. ‘Mr. Zoot Suit’ and ‘Vintage Thread’ were also recently married, had a vintage wedding, and a big band at their reception – just as we did. We were surprised and quite lucky to have met them and the friendships continued to grow. Just a year later we vacationed together at a beach outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Zoot Suit’s folks had graciously donated a week of their time-share on the shore. We took full advantage of not only being in a beach hot spot, but the culinary hot spot of Charleston. Sun and sand by day, gourmet restaurant by night. We happened upon a local eatery called Al Di La and took a chance it might be good food – after all, their tagline was ‘A Northern Italian Trattoria’. Mystery Man and I are pretty much open to any culinary experience, but Mr. Zoot Suit is not – he is more of a meat and potatoes man. So, we figured we couldn’t go wrong with Italian fair. Our appetizer arrived at the table – Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs, and Mystery Man and I dug in with instant delight. Wanting to share this Heaven-on-a-plate, we offered some up to our friends. To our shock and disbelief, Mr. Zoot Suit was just as delighted with the dish as we were, and instantly ordered another round. The server obliged with the very last serving – it was a seasonal dish and we were quite lucky to have had it. Prosciutto Wrapped Figs First, figs have a very short ‘season’ here in the Midwest. They are shipped in from California and you have to be on your produce ‘game’ to get them before they go mushy or moldy. I happen to have several friends who know of my fresh fig obsession and text me whenever they spy them. Next, get the best prosciutto money can buy – don’t worry, we only need twelve slices for the twelve figs we bought – and that is nowhere near a pound. Your deli counter specialist will gladly sell it to you by the slice. I purchased this at Dorothy Lane Market and it is so yummy! Gather your ingredients and equipment. Figs, Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, a muffin tin and foil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut foil into squares and line each recess of the muffin tin. Using a paring knife, cut the stem off of the fig in a circular motion (like you would hull a strawberry). Widen the opening with your pinky finger to make room for the cheese filling – being careful not to tear the fig down the side. Fill the fig with Gorgonzola and wrap the prosciutto snugly around. Place one fig in each muffin tin recess. Bake about 20-30 minutes, or until the prosciutto is slightly crispy around the edges and the cheese is bubbling. Note – you can stuff and wrap in advance! Complete all the steps and wrap (tightly! you don’t want things to dry out) your muffin tin in saran wrap. Refrigerate for up to a day and bake as directed.
Around 1983 Mom and Dad took a huge step into the electronic age. The T.V with fake wood grain, knobs, and a temper, was replaced with a sleek black beauty complete with a remote control. Beneath that beautiful television was our very first VCR hiding behind the glass of a shiny new stand. In the kitchen sat a box with a door, window and touch-pad. Yes, a microwave!
I don’t quite remember how or why we ended up with all of these new things at once. Maybe Dad won the drawing at the American Legion in town again. It might have been the reward of a big catering job, or perhaps just good old fashioned puttin money in the bank. Whatever it was, my sister and I were excited at the idea of making dinner in less than five minutes and eating on the couch while enjoying a movie.
One weekend soon after our new purchases, they came home with the Star Wars movies. I had never seen them even though I had an Ewok stuffed animal. Mom laid out snacks on the coffee table. Microwaved popcorn, cheese ball and beef roll-ups. We gathered our drinks and sacked out on the couch for an evening of fun. I am pretty sure we watched all three movies that weekend. But at the age of six, my attention span was not very long, so I missed pieces here and there and probably snoozed through some too.
The evenings of snacks and movies were few and far between. In fact the only other two I can recall were Top Gun a few years later and Dirty Dancing a year after that. But in all the time that passed in between, one thing was constant. Mom always made the same snacks.
In my college years the Star Wars movies were released in theaters one more time. My friends were movie buffs and some of them found it necessary to dress in costume for the big release nights. We stood in line for hours on the night of the first showing, and once inside we had our bags of popcorn and enormous sodas by our sides.
The theater went dark and the crowd clapped and screamed in excitement. The famous yellow words scrolled up the star-studded screen into space. The music boomed in our ears and I reached for my first bite of popcorn. Suddenly, I was overcome by a familiar craving. I needed a Cheese Ball.
Just last week we took the family to Star Wars Weekend at Disney World. Some things never change – I still wanted a cheese ball so I came home and made one.
Chipped Beef Cheese Ball
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese
1 medium onion
6 oz thinly-sliced corned beef, chopped into ¼ inch squares (you can use a Buddig 2 oz package)
• Soften the cream cheese (leave at room temperature for an hour, or unwrap and microwave 15 seconds at a time until softened).
• Place the onion in a food processor and blend for about thirty seconds. Transfer to a mesh strainer over a bowl and press the juice out with a rubber spatula. You will need 2 tablespoons of juice.
• Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand held mixer), combine the cream cheese and onion juice until it is smooth and completely integrated – about a minute on medium speed.
• Reserve 1/4 cup of the chopped beef and set aside
• Add the remainder of the chopped beef to the cheese mixture and combine – about ten seconds on medium speed.
• Form the mixture into a ball using a rubber spatula. Turn out onto serving platter, or plastic wrap if serving later.
• Cover the surface of the ball with the reserved chopped beef.
• Cover and chill for up to two days.
• Serve with assorted crackers.
NOTES: I usually double this recipe for a crowd and make one large ball.
She showed up at Swing Night just about the same month as I did. Her porcelain white skin, pearly white teeth, spunky curly hair and youthful smile made for an evening of never ending dance partners. Plus, she was good, and always looked like she was having a blast without ever breaking a sweat. I admired her from a distance and our interactions were brief for weeks, until one particular night when Mystery Man and I were working on a few steps off to the side of the dance floor.
The Charleston basic was proving difficult for me and my frustration level had hit an all time high. I secretly wondered why I was even trying, why I cared so much, and why I shouldn’t just leave and find some other hobby. But, he was being kind and offering tips, so I couldn’t just up and go without seeming very rude. So there I was struggling through it. Then Spunky Girl walked up. She watched for a minute.
“Oh, you mean like this?” she chirped, and banged out the step right then and there.
There are times in life when you make a choice.
For a split second I considered gathering my things, muttering something like “go ahead you two, knock yourselves out” and leaving, never to return.
I am so glad that split second came and went, and I stayed put. That was seventeen years ago. Spunky Girl became my Homey and together we have danced miles on the same floors (including the Charleston), met our husbands, graduated, started careers and had our children. My admiration for her started on the dance floor and continues to this day.
She likes to bring this Guacamole to our gatherings. I hope you have Homey you can share it with, too.
3-4 very ripe avocados
1 small to medium red onion, finely diced
1 Anaheim chile, finely diced
1 lime, squeezed, (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 lemon, squeezed (about 1 tablespoon)
cilantro to taste (about 1 tablespoon, chopped)
salt to taste
• Slice the avocados all the way around and pull apart. Scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor. Reserve the pits.
• Add diced onion and chile.
• Give the food processor two one-second pulses.
• Add the lime juice, lemon juice and cilantro.
• Pulse the food processor in one-second increments until the guacamole is the texture you prefer.
• Remove from bowl with rubber spatula into a serving dish. Add the pits to the guacamole (this keeps it from turning brown so quickly).
• Adjust cilantro to taste.
• Serve with tortilla chips.
This also can be made by hand in a large mortar and pestle set.