Monthly Archives: June 2009

Orchid Longevity

I bought this orchid in bloom at Costco a year and a half ago, to beautify the house for Christmas. Normally I don’t have houseplants, but this was a lovely thing, and I decided to give it a try. It hung like angels over the crèche for a while, and after I put away Christmas it kept blooming. I don’t know when it stopped, but I cut the stem down and fed and watered it less than I was told to.

This year it didn’t bloom at Christmas, but a little later, maybe in January. These photos I took last week. It has looked like this for all those months! I would go out and buy more of these amazing plants if I had more tables or shelves to put them on. I’m pretty sure this is the first orchid I’ve owned, and it was a great investment.

Back to Being Behind

I’m so glad to feel better today. Cleaned the car, cleaned my gardening tote, cleaned out the refrigerator, went grocery shopping with dear husband, and got ready for tomorrow, when I am going to teach a young friend to make sticky rice, the Laotian kind.

But today, I continued trying to use things up. Some professional food bloggers are doing that this week, too, so they aren’t even shopping today. They call it Eating Down the Fridge Week, which I find a much more appealing title than a similar idea I’ve heard, C.O.R.N., for Clean Out Refrigerator Night. I tried telling B., once or twice, that it was CORN night, but that was way confusing and evidently annoying.

One of these food writers confessed that she had four refrigerators out of which to Eat Down! (I trust she has a lot of people to feed.) That’s in addition to the freezer and the pantry which are to be one’s resources, as well. I’m all for it, but today…well, the emphasis was not on cooking, as I’ve told you. But I definitely used up some things: old frozen pineapple, and frozen ripe banana, and some rice protein, ice and almond milk… that vanilla paste that I never use: I put all those in the blender and made it my lunch. The thermometer got up to 80° today, maybe higher, and after working out in that sun, a healthy smoothie was quite welcome. So what if it wasn’t the best; it was very satisfying to Eat Down the Fridge.

Low-Lying Days

The last few days have found one or both of us down with the flu. I resisted until yesterday, after I returned from an early-morning gardening session at church, where I had accidentally broken off a rosebud. This morning it greeted me thus. I’m very thankful for it, a little present to cheer me up as I am missing a wedding and the chance to visit with friends and family from out of town.

Last evening was my worst sickly period, and the thought of cooking dinner made me cry. So I sat on the patio and read The Folding Cliffs. What strange interaction followed, and gave me creative energy to go into the kitchen and make dinner, I can’t really understand, and I won’t try to go into it here–but I managed to make another meal with what was on hand, and this time it was burritos with scrambled egg filling, spiced with chili and cumin, onions and garlic and sweet red pepper and cilantro. Cheese, too. And love and thankfulness and peace. That was the miracle that came from On High, via a fellow human using the written word with care.

And some fresh roundish fruits we called tomatoes, one each left in produce bags from two shopping expeditions. I had bought one, B. the other. One from Mexico–not surprising–and the other from….Canada! What? The information on the sticker was so alarming to me, my mind ran away and I forgot to take a picture for proof that the world had turned upside-down, not least geographically.

I didn’t add chile-type “heat” to the filling I made, so we added it at the table in the form of sauce from a bottle. And this is the perfect time to display photos I took some time ago and have been waiting for a chance to use.

Whether or not something requiring spicing-up is going to be on the table that night, when B. and I are in a particular local market, we like to peruse these shelves full of a library of hot sauces, right next to bags of hot chiles, in case you want to make your own, perhaps.

But we rarely have any of these playfully fiery brews around to use on our own Tex-Mex food, as we long ago developed a taste for Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce, when as head cook I didn’t always distinguish one culinary region from another. And Crystal is cheap.

At the end of our meal, there were a few chunks of the reddish fruit left in their blue bowl. B. asked what to do with them, and I said, “Throw them out. I don’t ever want to buy a tomato out of season again.” You see, I had also been reading about M.F.K. Fisher and realizing that these sorry, pale things with nary a drop of flavor or juice do not express me. Ha ha.

I’d like to return my kitchen to the days memorialized in this photo, when we had our fill of dead ripe tomatoes in the summer and fall, and the rest of the year made do with canned or dried or frozen.

In the coming months I’ll write more about tomatoes– growing, picking, buying, cooking. As to eating them fresh, I think it’s best, for now, merely to anticipate.

Spicy and Colorful Stew

I’m trying to use up some things in the cupboard and freezer. So this afternoon I started defrosting a gallon bag of cooked garbanzo beans, which had been prepared that far and stashed away some months ago as the first step in using up a big bag of the legumes that had been acquired “way back.”
There are usually a few boxes of frozen spinach around, so I set one of those out, and sat down at the computer to search online for recipes that would use both items. The first recipe I found was a Spanish stew with North African influence, but I scrolled on down the search results to an Indian dish, which I noted would also use up the lime I’ve had around for a couple of weeks.

Coriander and cumin were sautéed in oil along with onion and garlic.

Lucky me, I had just bought the tomatoes this week. Of course, the dish could be made with canned garbanzos, fresh tomatoes, etc. I don’t know about canned spinach, though….it sounds nasty. Frozen spinach, by the way, has been found to retain more nutrients than bunches of fresh spinach, as it is processed so quickly in our modern world, while fresh spinach often sits around for days losing vitamins. If you are going to cook it anyway, you might as well use the frozen and convenient product.

One recipe said to use lime OR tamarind juice. I don’t know anything about tamarinds.




You can see that the spinach also was not completely defrosted when I added it along with the tomatoes, after the onion and garlic had browned.

As soon as I put those two items in, it came back to me that cast iron + greens + tomatoes can have a color-deadening chemical effect, so I quickly spooned the mix into a stainless steel kettle. After about 10 minutes of simmering I added the garbanzos and remaining seasonings, and simmered the lot until the beans were soft and had absorbed some flavor. (Canned garbanzos would likely have already been more salty than my frozen ones were.)

Spicy Indian Chickpea and Spinach Stew

About 10 cups of cooked garbanzo beans
1 large yellow onion, chopped
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
3 cloves garlic, diced
About 1/4 cup oil
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons sugar

This recipe made about 3 quarts of stew, plenty to freeze and some to eat later in the week. I can see it being the basis for elaborations and extensions into pots of soup as well. One could add lamb or chicken, more tomatoes or spinach, other vegetables, etc., and perhaps purée a portion to add back in.

Lucky again, I had some fresh coriander, a.k.a. cilantro, in the fridge, to pretty things up, as the spinach, of course, was no longer bright. This is a vegan dish that fits right in with this season of the church, The Apostles Fast, when we abstain from animal products generally. The flavor was a nicely complex balance of the various spices with just the slightest heat. A bowlful of this dish would be good with some chewy bread for dipping–but that was something not to be found in the house!