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Cooking With Myra: The perfect pair of shoes

June 10, 2014 at 1:10 a.m.

Delicious Vegetable Tower

Delicious Vegetable Tower

• 1 purple eggplant, skin removed and sliced 1/4 inch thickness

• 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly into rings

• 1 cup milk

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup flour

• Salt, pepper

• Canola oil for frying

• 1 Red firm tomato, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick

• 1 yellow squash, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick

• 1 red bell pepper, cut into rings 1/4 inch thick

• 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Garnish: basil leaves, rosemary sprig, chives or all of these

Mix egg and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Dredge eggplant in egg mixture then in flour, then egg and repeat in flour until well coated. Set aside. Repeat this process with onion rings. Prepare three to four slices of eggplant and then deep fry, set aside on paper to drain. Fry onions and then set aside on paper to drain.

Toss tomato, squash and bell pepper in olive oil and using a grill or grill pan grill vegetables and then set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place foil on a cookie sheet and make two towers of vegetables. Layer the vegetables in this order: fried eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomato and repeat. On the top, place bell pepper rings and sprinkle mozzarella. You can use a skewer so it stays in the tower shape.

When the cheese melts (10 minutes) remove from oven and place gently on plate. Surround with tomato sauce. You can drizzle basil pesto oil over the top for presentation. Top with fried onion ring. Use rosemary sprig or basil as a garnish.

Tomato sauce

• 4 Tbsp. olive oil

• 1 small onion, chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, chopped

• 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

• 2 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 1 15-ounce can of canned tomato sauce

• 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 tsp. sugar

• 2 tsp oregano, basil (dried)

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook until gold about one minute. Add remaining ingredients and cook covered for one hour simmering sauce. Stir so the sauce does not stick. This sauce can be frozen or refrigerated.

Basil pesto oil

• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

• 6 Tbsp. pesto

Blend or whisk until smooth. This mixture will drizzle, so add more olive oil if necessary.

By Myra Starkey

I have often said the best accessory for a woman is a purse in a combination of brown and black because it goes with everything. If I followed that same fashion logic, it should be brown-and-black shoes that would be equally versatile.

Only I seem to have a difficult time finding such a simple pair of combination black-and-brown shoes. I also know the men reading this article right now are thinking this isn't a big deal.

I, like many women, like to shop. Going to an actual store is my preference because I like to experience the atmosphere. I like to touch the fabrics and try on the clothing to see how it looks on my middle-aged torso.

I'm usually not shopping until I seriously need something like someone who might go to the grocery store for milk, sugar, coffee or toilet paper.

I think I am usually shopping for mental diversion or the moderate joy someone might get from finding the perfect shoes, blouse or whatever. Or maybe it's that I simply feel it's my duty as an American to stimulate the economy.

Sometimes, I like to shop online. It's sometimes easier because I can look at hundreds of items in less time than it would take to park a car at a large mall. It can also be done at night - long after I have gotten off work, eaten supper and put on my pajamas.

Somehow the websites, with their artificial intelligence, seem to know what I will like, and they say things like: "Myra, others like you enjoyed ." and lo and behold, the items are things I do like.

Several weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Mary Ann, and I noticed that she was wearing a pair of new black-and-brown shoes. They fit my criteria for a great pair of summer work shoes. They were flat, black and brown in color, and the toe portion was wide and covered most of the top of my foot. This is a must since I rarely get a pedicure.

I went home that evening and found them online and waited impatiently for them to arrive. One of my favorite summer work outfits is a pair of black pants paired with a white linen tunic, which sits just below my hips. My recent purchase of the aforementioned shoes would complete the ensemble. My shoes arrived Friday, and by Monday morning, I had them on with my usual outfit.

Mondays are very busy around my house since my friend and cohort, Janet, comes over to take pictures for the newspaper column you are currently reading. This photographic process is quite a production and in many ways reminds me of an Ethel and Lucy show, with me being Lucy.

The morning is hectic because I'm usually finishing up the recipe, and Janet is setting up her camera in our makeshift studio in an upstairs room. We have a small, square, white tent, which is surrounded with very hot lights that diffuse any glares or shadows. The tent is shorter than we are, so we have to duck in and out a lot, carrying plates, fabric, food and other props.

The tent opening is lined with Velcro - for a reason we have not been able to figure out, and it snags us each time we enter it, catching our shirts or our hair until we pull free. Since the tent is upstairs and the kitchen downstairs, there are a lot of trips up and down until we get all the food in place.

On a past Monday, I was running late and moving very quickly. Since the preparation for the particular recipe had to be done at the last minute, I was finishing up the salad dressing and moving pretty quickly. I had neglected to put on my apron, which is rule No. 1 in the kitchen. Of course, I was wearing my new black-and-brown shoes.

Oil and water do not mix, and I can assure you that neither does oil and leather or linen. Mix in some avocado, which gives everything a green tint, and you have the makings of a mess. I actually saw the catastrophe occurring in slow motion as I watched the spoon flip out of the bowl from where I had been whisking, pitching green dressing airborne toward me and my shoes.

The green glop landed near my abdomen area in a splatter pattern. By the time it dropped to the floor, there was a perfect plop on my left shoe near the toe. Being new leather, it soaked into the light brown color like a thirsty animal drinking water. With no time to spare and Janet calling from upstairs, I wiped it off of my white shirt and shoe and continued upstairs.

Sometimes when we are taking pictures, we recognize when one will look really professional. Other times, we take about 30 shots before we just give in to mediocrity. Some foods are harder to take pictures of than others. Because the lights are really hot, we keep stopping to switch out the food since lettuce wilts, ice cream melts or gravy turns unappetizing colors under hot lights.

On a few occasions, we take the picture, everything is perfect, and it takes us about 20 minutes from start to finish. Otherwise, it takes us about an hour. If the food is still OK to eat, we sit down, and Janet samples my creation and offers her critiques. I should also mention that by the time we take the picture, I have already emailed the article, so it's too late for me to alter the recipe. Feel free to change anything at your discretion.

On that particular morning, we finished the photo shoot, and I went to work. I hoped that soaking my shirt in stain remover would restore my white tunic to its original splendor, but upon my arrival at the clinic, the stain looked worse. I tried multiple products on the shirt and then considered a novel approach.

If olive oil made the mess, then perhaps the oil could fix it. I soaked the entire shirt, making sure every fiber was coated. I then washed the shirt with dish-washing liquid, and no stain is noticeable. I am an olive-oil genius. The shoes did not turn out so well. Despite my use of multiple leather cleaners, I can still see the circle stain where avocado, garlic and olive oil met the perfect pair of black-and-brown shoes.

My friend Charlotte and I share a vegetable garden. Fresh vegetables make a great evening meal. I created a vegetable tower of fried eggplant, mozzarella cheese, grilled tomato, zucchini and bell pepper surrounded by tomato sauce and sprinkled with crunchy onion rings.

This is a filling entree, and you can add a grilled chicken breast topped with melted mozzarella. But don't spill any sauce on your shirt or shoes.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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