Wednesday, March 23, 2011

layers of romance & onions

i am sometimes baffled about what to write about.
i guess this venue is my way of overcoming
many many social and emotional issues of the childhood i experienced.
my mom was a college professor of american literature.
she taught many a student how to write.
her specialty was teaching other college professors how to teach writing .
my skills in this were not at all up to her standards.
(a case of the cobbler's children have no shoes).
this allowed her to experience one or two disappointments .
it was a roller coaster.
we both have survived it, and i keep writing.
(MY own WAY)
{tee hee!}
someday perhaps, our standards will coincide.

this is not what i want to talk about here and now.
now my thoughts have arisen from a simple task.

i was just cutting up some onions for dinner.
i truly have no interest in cooking every day or night.
sometimes i truly enjoy it.
i am suspicious that this joy is so fleeting.
of course having done this stuff for myself
and then my husband
and my kids
and then other folks...
(and this is not in a specific order....)
well the charm of these tasks have dulled over time.
i blame a lot of it on not having the best or favorite ingredients at hand always
or being tired
or pandering to picky-ass eaters
(you all know who you are... and your names are all Griffin)
or being interested in anything else at the time.

of course in the beginning of any of my relationships, i have always liked to cook to impress.
i started dating my husband 28 years ago
give or take a few days.
he was engaged to his high school girlfriend at that time
and still not married after 10 yrs.
it was a risk i was willing to take.
so i went to my own school with "gourmet" magazine.
i sat with a massive pile of mags and cookbooks.
i made a master list of what ingredients i needed.
i learned how to make him some eggs benedict for breakfast with hash browns .
i poached the eggs perfectly.
so very proud of myself.
(uh oh, i think i am developing a theme here)
and i was so wrongly proud.
the eggs split open with the tiniest prick of the tines of a fork.
just a gentle pop
the yolks ran down the mountain of potatoes flavored with paprika and other spices,
the ham,
english muffins toasted to craggy expectations,
and finally
intermingling with the hollandaise sauce.

i squeezed those lemons by hand,
melted the butter in a small pan,
dropped a few drops of butter into the eggs, yolks and lemon juice,
tempering it all slowly
following up with constant
whisking til the sauce emulsified into a sleek silky gorgeous fluffy tasty thick topping.
i poached the eggs on my two burner oven top,
i made the hash browns like i had learned to do while camping in high school.
it was a crowning achievement.
at least in my mind.
my husband ate it all.
he tolerated my eagerness with grace and compliments.
later that day, he disclosed that he hated runny eggs.
in any manner or shape.
freaking ugh.

so many years later,
in the post apocalyptic breakfast mode...
i am harnessing skills of chopping onions and making tasty,
ones especially low in cholesterol.
my husband, like many ogres past and present
has dietary/health related
food requirements.
did i say picky?
try it with a doctor's note.
still aggravating.

however backing up to the ogre crack.
in the first and best movie with
in it's title...
not only do ogres have many layers like an onion,
but so does my husband.
layers and layers and layers.

Many years into the romance,
or should i say layers later?
we found ourselves into a modest case of burnout.
at this time i was going to architecture school at nights
(5 out of 6th years)
i had abandoned my jobs as a knitting store sales person,
and a nanny.
i still performed the jobs as a bartender-waiter on weekends
and in an architectural office M-F 10-7 pm.
school after that.
i was totally cooked.
my husband and i took an overdue vacation.
we went to puerto rico.
it was heaven on earth.
we stayed in a charming guest house only a short block away from the beach.
it was so darling.
of course, we barely noticed until later, that it was a gay guest house.
we were the token oddballs.
the fruit and coconut rum infused cocktails under the bougainvillea with exotic birds were
extra delish.
i wish i could go back
the owners turned us on to some kick butt little hole in the wall places to eat.
we possibly at beans, rice and pork chops
many or all days in a row.
so began my love affair with
rice and beans.

later one of chris'
carpentry buddies made some for a dinner we ate together.
i had that throw back to the beachy life of a spectacular week in paradise.
he told me how he made his rice and beans.
i make them to this day.
moderately faithfully.
20 yrs of the same recipe and minor tinkering,
has allowed us to need to branch out a tad.

so i offer you the following recipe for my current obsession in the land of
high fiber, low fat
tasty as heck
potentially vegetarian/vegan
heart healthy
leftovers (if planned for) are even better.


3-4T. olive oil... add more or less as you like
1 onion diced
several ribs of celery diced
a couple of carrots also diced
about 8 pimiento stuffed green olives, diced as well
ham... diced. (optional if you should choose to go with the vegetarian option just leave this out.)
1 can of goya brand black beans. rinsed and drained. (i love this brand for the pop top can. it saves my mind while i am making this gorgeous composition).
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes use more than you think would be good, if you like hot food. it mellows with cooking.
2 T. chili powder
2 Tcumin powder
3-4 minced cloves garlic
1/2 t. of oregano
some basil fresh is nice, but 1 t. dried works too.
2 c.rice
4 c.water.
the proportions are amorphous, they are to your taste... all except the rice and water. they should always be two parts water to one part rice. there are better ways to add the water to the rice, however i have found that measuring is good for a predictable result.

1} pour olive oil into the pan with some red pepper flakes. heat gently and add in the onions, celery,carrots, and let cook until the onions are translucent; also add in the chili, cumin and oregano. then a heap of roughly chopped garlic and the olives.

2} stir this until you feel it is pretty well combined. add in the ham to the mix if you are using it.
let the ham get a little cooked looking like canadian ham.
the light carmelization of the meat adds loads of flavor. also, since all of the spices except the basil are cooking in with the olive oil at the front end of this experience they too will infuse the oil. oil is the vehicle for flavor. its augmentation is the secret to so many many fully flavored foods.
3} at this time, you can add a little more oil, should that be a tasty and appreciated part of this meal.
to this, add the rice. stir and coat for a couple of minutes until you feel a little resistance in the bottom of the pan. this means that the rice is just starting to stick a bit to the pan.
add the water to the mix, stirring and leveling out the mixed in components to the pan.

4} add in the black beans. stir to combine evenly. put a top on the pan, leaving the lid open a crack and the flame on low. when most of the water is absorbed, put the lid on the pan to cover properly and turn the heat off.

5} let sit for a bit (5-10 minutes). this will allow the rest of the flavor and water to finish being absorbed. also if you let it get a little too dry, you surely can add a bit more water. also, you should add some fresh or dried basil at this time. i had a small container of pesto sans cheese that was easy to pop in for that fresh flavoring addition.
6} serve up as highly piled as you like. i like sort of fluffing this at this point for pretty servings.
since we are bi-dietarily interested here, some of us like to put some provolone on top of the rice to melt.
also i love me some avocados any and every time possible. sour cream, yogurt (less caloric), lime juice squeeze, and on this occasion, scrambled eggs as toppers. if you feel disposed, poached eggs with the yolks all runny are also highly welcome additions.

7} this recipe is highly adjustable... and at the very end, after it is all cooked up, you can add a smattering of salt and pepper to taste.
it may not be at all desired, since there are so many tasty tidbits involved.



ps. i think i should clean the grates on my stove a.s.a.p.
please try not to see how filthy they are.

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