Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Few Changes Here, A Couple Updates There...

If you are one of those patient folks who have actually followed my blog over its bumpy progress these past 12 months, you will probably notice some recent changes. A new header picture, featuring one of my favorite peppers (yes, its habanero), some adjustments to my side-bars and last but not least, a new blog name, Rice and Beans, a Belizean in the USA. Since I am no longer in Washington DC at the moment, and cannot predict with 100% certainty my next destination after Indiana, I figured a more general title would do the blog justice. For the same reason I got rid of my DC Blog-Roll by combining it with my general blog roll and deleting those blogs that have not been updated in the last year.

Another great addition has been a search option, also located on the side-bar right by my recipe index. So now you can search for a recipe or ingredient or topic and the search results will appear at the top of the page above the latest blog entry.

I hope that these changes will make the blog easier to navigate and more enjoyable to read. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!

And the gorgeous picture? Monticello Gardens, which I had the good fortune to visit when I still lived in DC several years ago. What beautiful places have you visited lately?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Watercress Salad with Mango and Lime


So this salad was an experiment, the result of a big bunch of watercress and an invitation to a foodie BBQ being hosted by one of my fellow Anthropology of food cohort at Indiana University. I wanted to make something with the watercress and I ended up with a salad that combined it with mango, walnuts and dried cranberries, pecorino Romano cheese, mint and an olive oil and lime dressing. Despite my trepidation at the mix of ingredients, it was full of flavour and disappeared quickly at the BBQ. I fully intend to make it (or something like it) again. Who knew that mango and watercress could be such tasty bedfellows? Again the tropics and the temperate zone unite in something delicious.

Watercress Salad with Mango and Lime


1 large bunch watercress

Several handfuls of baby lettuce leaves, or one heart of a butterhead lettuce

3-4 sprigs of mint

About 1/3 cup dried cranberries or to taste

Half a large mango, cut into thin strips

Pecorino Romano cheese

About 1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pecans

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

a couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Juice of one lime (may substitute the juice of one small lemon)

Procedure:

1. Rinse the lettuce and watercress and toss out the big stems and any discolored leaves. Thinly slice the mango and cut into matchsticks.

2. Pat greens dry with paper towels and place in a large bowl with mango, thinly sliced mint leaves and toasted nuts.

3. In a jar combine the cranberries, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper and lime juice. Shake until emulsified and pour over the salad greens. Toss.

4. Top the salad with thinly shaved pecorino Romano to taste and serve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bloomington Farmers Market and Chickpea Andouille Soup with Greens


This week has not been the kind of weather I expect as spring heads full blast towards summer. After days of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s, of sun-dresses and iced tea on the patio at Soma Coffee Shop and Juice Bar in downtown Bloomington, I was surprised by a sudden 30 degree drop and the arrival of thunderstorms, cold rain and even cooler air. Yesterday was day two of the cold weather and I had a lot of free time on my hands.

The month of May, now that my classes are over, has been slower than I thought it would be. Getting approval from the Institutional Review Board to do my research was a fast process, and my grants were disbursed without any hitches. So Tuesday found me at home, avoiding the gym and the reading I had planned to do in preparation for the field, with nothing else that I really needed to do. I decided to make bread, and set about stirring together the sponge for my Mom's all purpose recipe.

I went to the Bloomington Farmers Market this past Saturday and found it full to bursting of greens. Collards, five kinds of kale, Swiss chard, lettuces of all sorts, fresh picked spinach, watercress, dandelions and arugula. I loaded up on some Swiss chard, kale, watercress and bok choi. I already have plenty of lettuce on my balcony!



It was a cold day, with a brisk wind keeping customers and farmers alike shivering. But signs of spring were everywhere:



So this Tuesday I began thinking about what I would cook to go with the bread:




I had a bunch of left over chickpeas from the last batch I had cooked which I had planned to make into hummus, but the weather called for a different preparation. Normally I would have made my standard chickpea and pasta soup, but I didn't need pasta on top of the bread I was already making, and I had a lot of greens to get rid of. A walk to Bloomingfoods (a local food cooperative store) led me to procure a pack of humanely raised pork andouille sausage and some fair trade organic red wine from South Africa. A delicious idea was wafting through my mind: a deep rich broth filled with the flavour of andouille, soft savory greens, hearty chickpeas and tomato.

So I set to work and ended up with a bowl of the perfect hearty soup for a cool spring day. Along with the freshly made whole grain bread and a glass of wine. This is a simple recipe that begs for quality ingredients and is open to experimentation. I think it would be great with cannelini beans instead of chickpeas, and that an equally tasty version could be made with chorizo instead of andouille sausage. And omitting the sausage and replacing chicken bouillon with vegetable results in an equally good vegetarian soup.




Chickpea Andouille Soup with Greens

3 cups cooked chickpeas (may use canned, if washed and drained)
4 ounces pork andouille sausage, thinly sliced (or omit or substitute another sausage of your choice)
1 large bunch kale, collards or Swiss chard (about 6 cups with any tough stems removed and thinly sliced)
1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
Water (3-6 cups as needed)
About 1/2 cup of your favorite red wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Oregano and basil, dried
Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon or to taste)

Preparation:

1.Wash your greens of choice thoroughly. Cut out any tough stems off and chiffonade: stack the leaves up several at a time, roll them into a tube, then thinly slice with a sharp knife. They will come out in thin strips.
2. Thinly slice the sausage. Heat the oil on medium heat in a large pot, then add the sausage and cook for several minutes. Add the greens and stir, cooking until wilted. Add red pepper flakes, garlic, black pepper, oregano and basil to your taste. I like a good teaspoon of red pepper flakes and half a teaspoon of oregano, with just a touch of black pepper and basil.
3. Stir and cook for another minute or two, then add the tomatoes and chickpeas, chicken bouillon and enough water to make plenty of broth for dunking your bread. Add the red wine and let simmer for at least half an hour, preferably longer, to let the flavours meld.
4. Serve with slivers of Parmesan on top, and a hearty baguette or multigrain bread, something with a crust to soak up all the delicious broth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Container Gardening, Anthropology of Food, and Upcoming Adventures in Belize


Look at my tomato plants! Aren't they just divine? Don't they look happy? With their fuzzy leaves that smell like a ripe tomato leaping towards the Indiana sun? The frustrated farmer in me is ecstatic. While I did alright with my plastic lined wine crates in the window-sill back in DC, I have to admit, an ample balcony has been the agricultural equivalent of upgrading from a New York City studio to a Hollywood mansion.


Feast your eyes on cilantro, flat leaf parsley, lemon basil and baby lettuce-leaf basil that I keep willing to grow faster as I drool in anticipation of vats of pesto, radishes that are getting fat in their little pots, 2 different kinds of tomatoes (San Marzanos for sauce, Giant Goliaths for eating fresh off the vine), Italian heirloom grilling peppers, nasturtiums, butterhead lettuce. For aesthetic appeal, dahlias and two kinds of calla lilies. And this is just the first year. Next summer I want cucumbers. I want more kinds of peppers. I want oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary. I want it all!


Did I mention there's room for my new weber grill and post run exercises on my yoga mat as well? With a balcony this big, I could grow pretty much everything but corn and pumpkins. And who knows, with a big enough container...

I have PLANS for this balcony. Aside from gardening, I'm thinking a kiddie pool would be perfect for lounging in while reading on hot summer days. And perhaps I'll reach over and pick a ripe tomato, without even having to get out of the water!

But these fantasies will have to wait until next summer. Because, as the title of this post indicates, I am anticipating Upcoming Adventures in Belize. Thanks to several small grant-making institutions on campus, I am the proud recipient of enough money to go do some pre-dissertation fieldwork in my home country. So instead of lounging in a kiddie pool in Indiana, taking summer classes and picking tomatoes, I'll be living in a small beach town in southern Belize, talking to people about their experiences and attitudes towards food and its role in the construction, maintenance and refutation of sex and gender roles.

That's right, I'm researching three of my absolute favorite topics. And I'm nervous as hell about it. You try marching up to someone and asking them what they think about food-for-sex metaphors (for those not familiar with the concept: when a banana isn't just a banana, that's a food-for-sex metaphor) and the gendered nature of power struggles over appropriate sex and gender roles as they are played out through food. It can't be done. Food and sex are two of our most intimate and fundamental drives/acts/desires and most of us do not respond kindly to strangers inquiring about them. Plus, check out this sign that I ran across last time I was there:


Apparently I have an uphill job ahead of me. So instead of marching, I shall be sidling (in a friendly manner) up to folks on the street, at the local eateries and corner stores, and hoping to find people who are interested in talking to me about their life experiences with food. With any luck, I'll be able to learn about gender roles in the different aspects of food procurement, preparation and consumption. People like to tell stories and it shouldn't be hard to find out if little Linda learned to cook from her mom while Jose was never taught, or if there is any particular food that is associated with men or women (see my earlier post on gendered food).

I expect to be working hard. Yep. Its gonna be a tough life living here for two months:


Did I fail to mention that Placencia puts on a three day long annual Lobsterfest the last weekend in June? Complete with dance competitions, grilled spiny lobster fresh from the Caribbean, and a full on Belizean Beach Bashment? (otherwise known as a party on the beach). I shall be forced to attend, I'm afraid, as a three day beach party celebrating a local food is the perfect spot to investigate food, sex and gender in action. What's a researcher to do!

What are your summer plans and what kind of great foods are you looking forward to eating? Me, I can't wait for fish panades, garnaches, rice and beans, fry fish with Marie Sharps hot sauce and a nice cold glass of lime juice on a hot Belizean day.