Every now and then, I am gripped by the conviction that I need to live in Missouri. So far, the job market has laughed derisively, but there was a time when I got as far as scoping out St. Louis, and on that trip, I had my first encounter with that fine local speciality, toasted ravioli.
Feeding that conviction is Paste’s “10 Missouri Bands You Should Listen to Now” (article), as it was painful to narrow the list to three and tempting to do track-by-tracks on several.
Since it would be imprudent to feed that conviction with excess fat, I’m going to make oven-baked “fried” ravioli (instructions from How Sweet Eats) with a fresh tomato-basil salsa. In the spirit of appreciating good band names, this calls for Sleepy Kitty (official site). Next time somebody complains that a band isn’t doing enough for its fans, I’m going to insist that person memorize “Gimme a Chantz!”
Not only is memorizing the song an excellent brain-building exercise, but in both lyrics and construction, the song shows how disillusionment, mockery, and insisting one has let go while hanging on are done. This is pro-level bitching.
While the lyrics put the hypothetical “you” through a wringer, it’s time to put some bread through the mini-food processor. This is English Muffin bread from Safeway because I like the dense texture (translation: it was on sale). I just kept stuffing bread in the bowl and ended up with more bread crumbs than was strictly necessary for one package of ravioli. Also in the bowl: a generous quantity of Italian seasoning and grated parmesan. Whirr!
Don’t be misled by the cheerful piano stylings into believing Sleepy Kitty is Colbie Caillat with a sharp tongue and a knack for holding grudges. First, keep an ear out for the percussion. It’s important, even in a musically sunny song like this one. Second, check out the entire Infinity City album (Bandcamp), where 1960s girl group vocals meet garage-band instrumentation. Indeed, just hang around to the second track of the album, where the guitars are crunchy, the vocals are angry, and the percussion is essential to driving the sarcasm of the song. If there’s a category of Essential Beach Break-up Albums, this one should be top of the list.
While the temperature is rising, preheat the oven to 450, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray it with olive-oil cooking spray. (The original instructions say to put a rack on the pan. I completely missed this step. Nothing bad happened.) Take your ravioli — I used Buitoni Spicy Beef & Sausage Ravioli — and get it about half-cooked. Drain, run under cold water so it doesn’t have to sit around cooling, and then it’s time to bread it!
But first, it’s time for Bo and the Locomotive (official site).
The dinner guests are getting impatient.
Get yourself a couple egg whites in a bowl. (Aha! This explains the bowl of egg yolks congealing in my refrigerator.) Stir ‘em up, then dip the ravioli in ‘em. Drop the ravioli in the bowl of seasoned bread crumbs and get ‘em nicely coated.
Okay, I always fail at the “nicely coated” part. I do my best. Onto the pan they go, where they get another spray of olive oil and then about 15 minutes in the oven.
My reaction to “On My Way” (from On My Way, available from Bandcamp) was love at first thump. Not only is the percussion essential to the mood of the song, but it has the chugga-chugga rhythm of the band’s titular locomotive. The drum-driven bridge on “On My Way”? Tension incarnate.
I’m also very taken with how folk-song motifs (don’t tell me that “oh-oh-oh-oh, I-oh-I-oh isn’t one!) are made modern and filled with momentum, sort of as if Sisters of Mercy took up a new life as an Americana band. Other songs on the album are a bit more traditionally Americana… or are they? Vocals get layered and distorted, and those drums are relentless. And then there’ll be a sweet guitar melody, but still with the layered vocals. It’s an album of surprises.
Among today’s surprises: that I’d have anything to do with a raw tomato. Chunk it up, deseed it, and put it in the food processor with a nice handful of basil, a few sprigs of fresh oregano, and a couple drops of wine to help it not turn brown. Whirr! It’s that simple. I made only a single portion because I’m skeptical about raw tomatoes; but it’s also so easy to make fresh that there’s no point in having leftovers.
This is my most successful foray into oven-frying. The toasted ravioli have the crunchiness and bite of the real thing. As for the tomato salsa… I found myself scooping up quantities and wiping the bowl, so I think it’s a success for this non-tomato-lover.
Just don’t make enough ravioli for leftovers — it is not better the second day.
Let’s do one more Missouri band. Dots Not Feathers (Bandcamp) may be using jazz progressions (which usually don’t work for me), but it’s in a folk framework with intelligent use of percussion to intensify the vocals. Also, “Shoes on Power Lines” (from Come Back to Bed) has the funniest and most delightful wordplay about words that I’ve heard in a while. The poignancy is greater if one’s swain is named “Jeremy,” but I say we just overwhelm Urban Dictionary with claims that jeremy is a popular slang term for any romantic partner. Check out the marching-cadence drums that follow the chorus.