Friday, January 26, 2007

Red Snapper with Deconstructed Salsa in a Packet

I'm a single girl and I love, love, love quick and easy. So every Friday I treat myself to some tasty fish. Tonight, the victim of choice was a beautiful snapper filet from Whole Foods. It was worth having to lie to the bum that followed me into the store to talk to me, I think.

Anyway, the easiest and most fool-proof way to do fish is in an aluminum foil or parchment paper packet. It's nearly impossible to dry it out and it marinates it beeeautifully. It happened that I asked the (very cute, very young) fish counter guy what herbs he thought would go best with snapper. I've done mushrooms and potatoes with rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I've done Thai style with curry, coconut, and lime. But tonight, he mentioned that snapper does well with salsa. So I thought, "ah, ha!" Why buy a jar of salsa, or waste time with a food processor I don't own when I can make own deconstructed salsa, I ask you, why? So, here it is, eat your heart out Rachael Ray. (Also, if you want to make the recipe for two... I suggest you double it. This here cookin' is for the single ladies... can I get a "HEY LADIES... get, get funky.")

Now, the foodies around here won't need nearly this much instruction, but you never know who's going to stop by...

1 lovely red snapper filet
7-8 grape tomatoes cut in half
2 crosswise slices of a small yellow onion (we want rings here girls, and not the kind you wear on your finger)
1 quarter section of a yellow pepper cut into *very thin* slices
4 jar jalepeno rings, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 tsps cilantro (I used dry, though I prefer fresh)
1 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp olive oil (we need a little fat)

Pre-heat your oven to 400° and start slicing and dicing your vegetables. Take out a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper and fold up sides to make a little box-like structure and throw in your fish. Dump all of your other ingredients over the top. Since I like a little presentation, I lay the yellow peppers over the fish first on an angle with the onion rings over that, in sort of an arty way. Then the halved grape tomatoes and finally the diced jalepenos and garlic. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top and the salt as well. (If you're not a cilantro fan, and I know a LOT of you out there aren't, you can try to find Mexican oregano. Try your local Mexican grocery, that's where I've been successful. It's more fragrant and pungent but very tasty - use sparingly.) Then drizzle the lemon juice, lime juice and olive oil over the top, wrap it up and pop it in the oven.

Now, the filet I got tonight was a little thin so I only left it in the oven for about 20 minutes. For fatter filets I go a full half hour.

Amazingly, because of the tomato I imagine, I suggest a red wine pairing for this dish. I enjoyed a glass of Barons de Rothschild 2003 Bordeaux and it was perfect. It offset the citrus and tomato acidity quite nicely and was just mild enough not to exacerbate the tiny fire in my mouth because I actually used about 7 jalepeno rings instead of the 4 I suggested to you. But it was still bold enough not to be intimidated by the onion and cilantro.


Drama Queen?

The last couple of weeks have been tough. The holidays were equal parts wonderful and difficult. I've heard it said that we pay in equal measure for each moment of joy we experience with a moment of suffering and I've definately felt that to be true recently. It feels like the scales have been tipped in favor of suffering, but I'm trying to be Danish about it.

Recently, my employer announced that there would be cutbacks. They told us that they were planning to dissolve our office this month, that a new shrunken pool of positions would be created and that they would open them internally for us to apply for (and pretty much everyone else - with "some preference" for us) and that they would like to have everyone in place by May and that we'd be given our official walking papers then. And anyone who chose not to apply for one of these new positions would be done at the end of June. They would be given a severance package and sent on their way.

The instant they announced this, I put my resume out. I worked on cover letters, and started hunting. This job was always intended to be a sort of layover. A resume-building experience and it has been. But I've stayed too long as it stands working for an employer I don't believe in. So when a friend of mine gave me a posting for a job at a great organization, I was psyched. I put in my application and resume and waited. And waited. And waited. I heard nothing. Just when I had written them off, I got a call for an interview. I was thrilled.

I researched the company, I read interview tips, I talked with my bosses. (Who backed me 100% in my search for a new job. They've always known that I was better than my position.) I walked into that interview totally prepared and looked fantastic. I interviewed fairly well, I think. To be honest, I wasn't really sure. I flubbed a story about a challenge I overcame, I was obviously nervous. But I'm my own worst critic. Whatever, right? The nice part was that one of the panel members interviewing told me that I had done very well as I was shaking hands and walking out the door. Being a pessimist, I assumed she said that to all the candidates. Hey, there are people out there like that who have some sick compulsion to make everybody feel better. I've met them.

In this interview they talked little about the position itself. They talked mostly about their office, went through the obligatory behavioral questions. (The idea being that you have a better idea about someone's future if you understand their past and current habits.) Which, I must say I infinately prefer to the old interviews where they asked you that dreaded question. That question to which there is no good answer save tired cliche. The question that you could never be truly honest about. "What is your greatest weakness?" Now, once upon a time the fashionable answer was, "I'm a perfectionist." Or, "I'm too hard on myself." When the honest truth is probably something like, "I'm 15 minutes late to work everyday, I play online when I'm bored, and I sneak an extra cigarette in the last half hour of the day to make the time pass more quickly." Or, "I release SBD's into the wild like they were going out of style." Or, "Seriously, I'm just a complete mess. I cry at the drop of a hat."

A week later I get a call for a second interview. I blow off an all-staff meeting announcing all the changes in our offices and others - which I felt really good about. While everybody else was enduring the painful news I was out getting a new job. Good for me.

I looked even better for this interview. Seriously, it was 60° outside the last time I condescended to wear stockings and a skirt. And it's cold in this city in January. But I threw on my best cashmere coat and shiny little flats and walked in that office looking kick-ass. It was the best second interview of my life. I sat down with the Director of the office and she told me right off the bat that mine was the only name the panel put forward for a second interview. That I had come highly recommended and that meeting me, she was inclined to agree. (Kinda makes you wonder what a sorry bunch the other applicants were, doesn't it?) She told me all about the position, what would be expected of me, what I could expect from them. Then... she mentioned the pay.

Now, I had walked into the interview being rather curious about the P/T LTE tags on the posting. I knew P/T was Part-Time and that LTE was Limited Term Employment. How part-time? How limited was this term of employment going to be? So I asked about it. I was given a reasonable number of hours per week, sometimes more when an event or project that I was working on required it. And that the LTE tag was kind of meaningless at that office because everybody was technically limited term and served at the "CEO"'s whim. From budget year to budget year. I left feeling pretty good.

When I walked into the second interview, the hours changed. They were less than originally thought - but when she mentioned the pay, everything was okay again. I did the math when I got home and I was still doing just fine. So, I walked out with a new job. Thrilled. Pleased. Proud. They said the HR Department would contact me with a formal offer and I was on my way to meet up with my considerably less than thrilled co-workers for a "Pink Slip" party.

So I waited. Friday went by without word. Monday like Friday before and on in this fashion until finally on Thursday (Putting us at a full 5 business days) I had gone neurotic and called. The HR Laision apologized, said that they were just overwhelmed in his office and that he'd either get back to me by the end of the morning or the early afternoon. That I should have my offer on paper today or tomorrow.

The morning passed and nothing. I had meetings but I was still on pins and needles waiting. I'd been crazy for days. Word had spread like wildfire in my office (trust in the office gossip mill and you will never go wrong) so much so that the day before I called I had no less than 9, yes - I counted, 9 people asked me if I had gotten my formal offer yet. Finally in the afternoon the HR rep calls me back and gives me some unsettling news. He said that the Director should never have mentioned pay. That she had overstepped her boundaries and that pay was determined by the HR Department people and they were having to take another look at my experience and qualifications. That without being able to mention specifc figures, given her word, I would have been paid more than a position above me and that person had already accepted their offer. They either had to find a way to justify that, or they were going to have to offer me less. Needless to say, I was not thrilled.

I was, in fact, completely furious. I raged to my friend who had given me the post, the friend who had worked there forever, "THIS IS BAIT AND SWITCH!" I said. First the hours, now the pay? How can this many people have their heads up their asses? How can this many people be so woefully misinformed? How can they do this? This is bordering on unethical! I raged. I thought about it all night. Woke up at 2:30 in the morning still angry. But by morning, I was just completely depressed. Terribly disillusioned. I had been so excited, so proud. I was getting out of my hell-hole. I was moving on to a great opportunity. This position, I was told in the second interview, had the possibility to move to a full-time salaried position and the salary mentioned was FAT. Now, it wasn't for certain... but she was pretty sure. Again, I had been thrilled. Silly me. Really, how silly I felt. If it sounds too good to be true... what a fool.

So, I got to work in a state. Where I had been holding my head up high as walked the halls late last week and early this week, strutting. I was limp as a wet noodle today. Near tears, wondering just how low this new lower pay was going to be.

I had changed my Gmail tagline to "Bait and Switch" and my sister IMed me over gmail. (We call it GIMPing. Gmail Instant Messenger Pimping. I love my sister... mostly.) I told her what was going on. How upset I was, how angry. She commiserated for about two very short sentences and then told me to "Quit being a drama queen, the woman just made a mistake." I told her I was surprised she would say something like that. That I expected sympathy. She pointed me to three words. I said, well it was the drama queen thing that I took exception to. She said she thought she was giving me a pep talk. I said, well, I can't hear you and I read that as chiding. She basically said that she could hear what I sounded like and she wasn't dealing with it and signed out. That sent me right over the edge. I started tearing up. I wrote her an email telling her everything that was going on why I felt like that was a hurtful thing to say and she responded with defensiveness, reproach, by repeating her indictment of me as a drama queen (which I might be but you don't want to hear that when you're upset), and indignity. I was so angry I sobbed. (If this sounds like a bunch of girlish idiocy to you ((it is)), you don't have a sister. "And she was like, and I was like, OMG!" is kinda par for the course.)

I waited until afternoon to do anything with the offer because I think I just totally had a meltdown that morning. All the poison in our office, all the fear in my co-workers eyes, some personal things I have going on, the stress of this whole new job snafoo just got to me. I'm not sure I'm sorry about what happened with my sister but by the time lunch was over I had pulled it together enough to send an email to the Director and the HR Liasion asking about the future of the position (I'd kinda like her to put something in writing about that this time, ya know?), and called the HR guy to put in a counter-offer. We had discussed the possibility of some wiggle room with the pay and I wanted to see if that would pan out. I got no response from either but hey, it was Friday afternoon. My office looks like a ghost-town by 3:00 and I didn't get a chance to put out that stuff until after 3:00. So, it's a wait and see.

But honestly, I really have to wonder what's going on there. How in god's name do you send a panel in to an interview without them knowing, unquestioningly, what the hours are? How, do you as a director, walk into an interview not knowing what you can and cannot mention? And how do you, as an HR Liasion make it so that I can deduce within a few dollars, what the other person they've hired is making? When I get their counter-offer, should it be more, I'll have an even better idea. A little questionable in my mind. But the job still sounds like a great opportunity but I definately keenly feel that I'm taking a chance. If I fall... there are always other jobs out there. And school is looking more and more attractive all the time. But even school, I don't think... you know, degree or no degree, won't protect me from this kind of stuff. It's just disheartening.