Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Case of Christmas, and Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Just before the snow flew this year, I sat on a park bench overlooking Black Current Bay. Karl was getting off from work early, and was coming to join me. I soaked in the autumn sun. I watched Chickadees flitting from branch to branch. One landed on a Queens Anne’s Lace flower that had dried and closed. He hung upside down and pecked bugs, his weight bending the fragile stem. I watched as he flitted to his next perch. What? Oh no! He flapped frantically. Caught in a burr bush.

I didn’t want to intervene right away, and scare him, thinking he would escape on his own. But he didn’t! He was getting more and more entangled. I approached.

Sure enough he was so stuck! He squawked softly, beseechingly, and to my ears cried, “Help me!”

I wish I were brave enough right then and there to tear his delicate legs, wings, and fluffy down-covered flesh away from the burrs, but I worried I’d cause too much damage. I tried to figure out what was best. Should I cut off the stalk and take stalk and all to a vet? Should I run to the nearest downtown building and ask for help? I searched my purse for manicure scissors, and cut off surrounding burrs so he wouldn’t get trapped yet again if he managed to free himself. But by now he was Velcro'd, all the way up the length of his body to his throat. Geez!

Luckily, I saw Karl approaching. I shouted to him to hurry. I steadied the stalk, and Karl pulled. I asked Karl to keep hold of the bird. I didn’t want him to flutter away with burrs still attached to him. Karl said, “He’s bleeding.” He held the tiny Chickadee chest-up and asked me to pull away the last knot of burrs. I couldn’t. So Karl did, then released him, and he flew away. I asked if Karl thought the Chickadee would be alright. He said, yes, the bleeding would stop and his wounds would heal, and it was an excellent sign our Chickadee was fit to fly.

You know, I so identified with that scared, trapped bird. Don’t you think we humans feel similarly trapped sometimes? And we could use a hand more powerful than ours to help us to freedom? Anyway…that whole scenario spoke to me of...connection.

What am I doing here? Writing a novel? Merry Christmas!

Black Bean Vegetable Soup

3/4 cup black beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
28-oz-can diced tomatoes
9 cups water
7 rounded tsps (for 7 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
1 cup tomato juice
pepper
salt
fresh parsley, chopped

Simmer together the first 12 ingredients (black beans to pepper to taste) for 2 hours in an uncovered pot. Remove the cinnamon stick. Blend one cup of the soup. Return the blended portion to the pot. Salt to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Case of Mushroom Risotto

I've already admitted to a fondness for rice. I must also fess up to a passion for Italian food. I have no Italian heritage (friend Gina does), I just consider Italian one of the finest world cuisines. If not the absolute finest.

Mushroom Risotto

2 cups boiling water
2 rounded tsps (for 2 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
1 shallot, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tsps butter
1 tsp olive oil (plus 1 tbsp for sautéing the mushrooms)
2/3 cup Arborio rice
1/6 cup white wine
1/2 cup dried, assorted mushrooms
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 cup chopped, fresh thyme
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/6 cup grated Parmesan
salt
pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme to garnish

Prepare a bouillon with the water and vegetable bouillon powder. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the shallots and celery in the butter and olive oil for 2 min. Add the rice and sauté for 5 min. Add the wine and stir until it's nearly absorbed. Add the dried mushrooms, turmeric, fresh thyme and 1/3 cup of the bouillon and stir, and continue to simmer, until liquid is nearly absorbed. Continue adding 1/3 cupfuls of the bouillon, and stirring, for 25 min. or until the rice is creamy and firm but not hard (you will need to add 1/3 cupfuls of water toward the end). While the risotto is simmering, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the extra olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. When nicely browned, remove from heat and set aside. When the risotto is ready, stir in the Parmesan and the sautéed mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the fresh thyme sprigs. Serves 2. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Case of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Vinaigrette

December is here! Don't these tomatoes in their containers look like Christmas balls? I was thinking of sending out Christmas cards with this photo on the front, but thought, well, maybe my friends and family won't appreciate the comparison. But I think tomatoes are as magical as Christmas decorations. Dress them up with–

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Vinaigrette

3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
2 tbsps olive oil
salt
pepper

Whisk or shake together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.