Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bri is gone.

Briana of figs with bri is gone. She passed away in her sleep on the 26th while holding her husband's hand. Her wonderful spirit, recipes and personality live on. Please visit Jugalbandi's post and light a candle in her memory. Bri, these flowers are for you. As bright and beautiful as the person we all came to know through your blog. May you rest in peace.

Autumn musings.

Tonight, I had the option of reading the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual in preparation for a no doubt extremely heated class discussion in my development anthropology class on Thursday. Or, goofing off and writing blog posts after a month of ignoring my duties here at Rice and Beans: A Belizean in DC. Try and guess which I ended up doing.

Yes, the allure of reading about interrogation and espionage tactics just couldn't keep me from my blog. That's how devoted I am. Mind you, the fact that I had to venture out on foot in 30 mile an hour winds and the freezing cold to retrieve the book from a big chain store in Georgetown may have played a part my decision making process. After losing all feeling in my fingers, a cup of hot masala chai and some relaxation time sounded better than military jargon. Plus I just finished writing a paper today, thanks very much. I deserve a break and you guys deserve some more posts!

So here I am, hanging my head and sending abject apologizes your way. If you haven't given up on me already, you will see that I have also posted a couple recipes in the last day or two, in a rushed attempt to make up for four weeks of silence. I beg you to try the sweet potato and corn chowder. And make extra. It just gets better after a couple days in the fridge.

Things have been busy here. For one thing, as you can see we now have a kitten. A beautiful grey fluff-ball with blue eyes that a police officer rescued from some kids intent on killing her and her siblings. How? By putting them in paper bags and tossing them repeatedly in the air. It worries me to think what the parents of those ten year olds must be doing to them that they would be so sadistic towards such tiny creatures. Nonetheless, our kitty was rescued and ended up at my boyfriend's work. He, of course, took one look at her and couldn't say no. So now we have a kitty named Blanche after the Golden Girls character. Who hasn't been weaned yet. And must be fed with an eye dropper. Every couple hours. Without fail. First thing in the morning, as soon as I get out of work, before class, after class, before bed. After two weeks she is much bigger and healthier but she refuses to eat on her own even though her teeth are getting bigger (and sharper) every day.

Schoolwork, well, schoolwork is the reason you haven't heard from me in a month. Lets leave it at that. I have been cooking, but that is because I have to eat, don't I? And believe me, there have been no all-evening culinary sessions in my apartment in a long time.

Then there are the university applications. Aside from Indiana University, about which I wrote previously, I am also applying to Brown University and Emory University, both excellent schools with excellent anthropology programs that require excellent applications and perfect statements of purpose, writing examples, etc. Do I have time for this? No. But the deadlines are in December, so I am trying to squeeze it all in between my current schoolwork.

Aside from the turnips and the chowder, I recently came up with two new salads that I have been going gaga over and plan on posting about as soon as possible. They involve, respectively, apples and fennel and whole wheat couscous and cannelloni beans. Can I just say that whole wheat couscous is awesome? It cooks in 5 minutes (if you do it the American way), which is perfect for someone with no free time (ahem...think working graduate student) and its whole grain! What a great invention. I've been getting mine from Trader Joe's but I'm sure there are other sources.

I also recently tried this fantastic recipe for a North African tagine-style chicken with olives and apricots, and then made it again with just vegetables. Both ways it is scrumptious! Many thanks to Warda of the 64 square foot kitchen for sharing it with the world.

Ok, I promise my next post will include a recipe. Stay tuned for: Red Snapper Ceviche, Belizean-style (yes, that means it is spicy. In fact, you might as well go put habanero peppers on your grocery list right now.)

Til next time! (which, if fate allows, will be less than a month from now).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And my favorite new vegetable is...

Turnips. What can I say. Maybe its a German thing. After all it's well known that all poor German farmers subsisted on for winters at a time was moldy wheat, turnips and cabbage, enlivened with the occasional hunk of horseradish. Or maybe it wasn't that bad. But a heck of a lot of 'em sure ran straight to Pennsylvania when the opportunity to strike out for fresh country arose. And when they got there...they ate turnips.

My Dad ate his share growing up-yet another common side on the traditional Pennsylvania deutsch table. Mashed with butter and milk, or grated raw into vinegar as a relish, they appeared under many guises.

Despite all this turnip heritage I ignored them at my local farmers' market for years. Until this fall. Inspired by recipes of roasted winter vegetables and with cozy pictures of carrots and parsnips and turnips wafting a delicious fragrance through my kitchen while it sleeted outside, I picked up a bunch of them 2 weeks ago. 6 small turnips, only about 3 ounces each, white as a boiled egg, with a huge bunch of greens on top. Organic, of course. And since they were organic, once I got them home I decided to go for the simplest treatment I could think of. I washed them, leaves and all, making sure to scrub off any clinging dirt. Then I oiled them with olive oil, powdered them with salt and pepper, and lay them in a pan to cook in the oven. About 30 minutes later I sat down to one of the most delicious plates of greens and root vegetables that I have had in years. The sweetness of the turnip root, caramelized from the oven! The delicious umami of the greens! I was hooked.

Probably next week it will be parsnips (I have yet to spy any at the market though), and I certainly am enjoying the crisp and sweet carrots of the season. But for now, The Turnip is King!

Roasted Turnips with Olive Oil
I plan to think up some more elaborate variations on this roasting thing. Try different spices. Try different oils. Try mixing them up with some other vegetables. But for showcasing the turnip, in all its naked glory, this is the way to go. Make sure to get small, sweet turnips. One of those big purple types might be a bit too pungent for this preparation. If in doubt, ask the farmer.

Turnips: about 6 small ones with the greens attached.
Olive oil: about a teaspoon or more if you desire
Fresh ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly wash the turnips and their attached greens. Scrub the roots til they shine.
2. Take a pan just big enough to hold the whole turnips. Spritz in the olive oil, add the turnips and using your bare hands, coat the turnips in the oil.
3. Shake over the salt, grind over the pepper-to taste. Turn the turnips in the pan to make sure all sides get a good dusting.
4. Place the pan in the oven. Check every 5 minutes or so and turn the turnips as needed so the roots cook evenly and the leaves don't get too crispy (though the crispy bits are good too).
5. Place your turnip on a plate, grab a steak knife and a fork and sit down to dinner. Cut the greens off and into bite sized pieces-pour over a little vinegar of your choice if you so desire. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fat Free Sweet Potato Corn Chowder with Caramelized Corn Salsa

This soup is one of my new favorites. Its from a really great book by the people up at Moosewood Restaurant called Moosewood Restaurant No-Fat Favorites. The first time I read through this book I marked so many pages that I still have about 25 recipes to try. But this was the first thing I made and it was delicious. This slightly spicy, chunky and flavourful is a snap to put together, especially if you have some frozen or canned sweet corn lying around. I had some of the season's last sweet corn from the farmers' market and cut it off the cob for that great fresh from field taste. Plus I had extra to make a little caramelized corn salsa-my own recipe, which I think really complemented the soup.

Southwestern Corn and Potato Soup
From the Moosewood No-Fat Cookbook. I doubled the recipe to serve 5-6 as a main course. The calorie content of the entire recipe as presented here is 1600 calories, it makes about 10 cups.

2 cups finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 small fresh chilies seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups vegetable stock
4 tsp ground cumin
4 cups peeled and diced sweet potato
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
6 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels


1. In a covered medium pot, simmer the onions, garlic, chile and salt in 2 cups of vegetable stock until the onions are soft. Stir in the cumin, then add sweet potatoes and the remaining stock.
2. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft, then add the bell pepper and corn and cook until all the vegetables are softened.
3. Blend about half the soup in a blender, or use an immersion blender. Heat again on low heat. Serve topped with caramelized corn salsa and tortilla chips (try the baked kind).

Caramelized Corn and Roasted Pepper Salsa

2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 medium-large tomato, finely diced
2 medium or 1 large red bell pepper
juice of 1 large lime
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon turbinado or raw sugar (can substitute regular brown sugar)


1. Turn on the broiler in your oven. Place the bell peppers in a pan and put them in the oven under the broiler. Turn regularly and let blacken on the outside in places until they are well roasted. Remove from the oven and cover the pan for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put the paprika, chipotle and salt in another baking pan with the corn kernels. Mix together, stick under the broiler and let roast, stirring regularly, until the corn begins to brown and the sugar caramelizes. Remove and turn off the broiler.

3. Take the cover off the pepper pan and remove the peppers. The trapped moisture should have loosened the skin so that you can easily peel it off. Do so, then cut the peppers open and de-seed them. Finely dice the pepper flesh, mix together with the corn, the finely diced tomato and the freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir and taste, add more paprika or chipotle or salt to taste.

4. Serve by itself with tortilla chips or on top of the corn chowder-with tortilla chips.