Saturday mornings will usually find me at the Swap Shop with my father, affectionately called “Jungle Jack” or “JJ” by his grandchildren instead of Granddad or Granddaddy. We started going on our adventures about two years ago, Dad really needed to get out of the house and I wanted to spend more time with him. He’s 89…and fabulous. We love the Swap Shop. At this place you can get just about anything for your home or toolbox. Dad was looking for batteries and I was checking out the wicked looking hunting knives piled up there in front of him. Even in their sheaths they scared me. Machetes, guitars, meat cleavers, playing cards, sewing kits, rat traps, calculators, house coats, nails, outside paella pans… you can get it ALL here. We have a little routine, the same every Saturday, beginning where we park. Always the same area and as we walk in, I always pull the old lady cart, we play “Pick a Car”. Pretty self-explanatory. After dodging the cars pulling in, I’ll ask, “Hey, Dad. You want to see your Syrian friend?” “Yeah, yeah! Good morning, my friend!” And after a quick fist bump, too much bacteria shaking hands, they launch into a discussion on the unrest in Syria. This Saturday Dad bought two packages of socks from his Syrian friend, who cut him a deal and shaved $2.00 off each pair. When Dad protested, the Syrian said, “No, no! Don’t worry. I’ll get it back from the next guy!” Our next stop is always “the bird man”. His wife passed away a few months ago and for the first time I noticed a middle-aged bird groupie camped out on a folding chair in his booth. Who’d a thunk? “The bird man” had a girl friend. We looked at the chicks, fighting cocks, (yes, they’re illegal), parrots, finches, love birds, it just goes on and on. The bird man even has freshly laid eggs from his farm in one of those mini fridges. Dozens and dozens of them. JJ picked up some supplies, “the bird seed looked good today!”, and off we went to see “the Haitian lady”, another kindred spirit. Dad gets finger bananas from her and I get fresh mint, flat leaf parsley and scallions. She’s beautiful and constantly flashing brilliant white smiles to all who pass by. Known for wearing a red bandana and showing off the gap between her two front teeth, without fail she gives Dad a crushing embrace. This past weekend he said, “Jesus! She even got her hair in my mouth!” I know he secretly likes all this attention. At this point we’ve crossed from the far west side of the Swap Shop to the far east and now we’re going to double back, cutting through the kiddie rides. The rides aren’t set up yet; teenagers in their bright yellow uniform shirts are lining up bumper cars, hosing down the walkways, taking inventory of tickets and generally straightening up. I like this long walk back…we shout instead of talk, the salsa’s just blaring out of the overhead speakers. It’s kind of sad and tired looking but it’s part of our adventure so I appreciate it. Somewhere along that walk Dad will say, “Listen. I’m going to go see my Mexican friend. I need some papaya and I want two kiwis. Are you going to see your Tall friend?” “I am.” “Okay. I’ll meet you by the orchids. I want to talk to my Portuguese friend about his potting medium. ” And off we go.
This week, from my Tall friend, I scored 5 or 6 pounds of blood-red tomatoes, 7 zucchini, 3 eggplants, one gorgeous bundle of radishes with the tops still on, a large bunch of cilantro and 6 huge yellow-skinned onions. I spent $15.00. Walking out, we passed more vegetable and fruit stands, sugar cane and cane juice stands. Dad and I looked at each other and when our eyes met, we smiled. It was a happy morning for both of us!
Zucchini Casserole with Feta Cheese
- 7-8 washed zucchini, grated using large holes of box grater
- 1 large onion or 2 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
- 3 cups fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 2 cups flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cups low-fat, low moisture grated mozzarella (optional, but I like it!)
- 2 cups feta, crumbled by your own little hands
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites or 5 eggs or any combination
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 375°.
- Spray 9 X 13 pan with non-stick spray.
- In a clean, linen dish towel, place 1/2 grated zucchini. Gather sides of dish towel and wring moisture out of zucchini. Do the same with the other half.
- Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup mozzarella, if you choose to use that cheese.
- Mix ingredients well and pour into prepared baking dish.
- Scatter remaining mozzarella over dish, if using.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes or until bubbly on top.