Sunday, January 12, 2014

food for the heart, mind, body and soul

 A lot has happened in two-and-a-half years since I've posted to my blogging world out there. It seems like a lifetime in some ways. We moved to Key West, and I got lost in this island paradise. I got lost and completely found myself all at once. It is truly wonderful to be somewhere that makes me feel completely alive. My love for cooking and nourishing my family was put on the backburner (like the cooking pun?) while I dove into exploring other joys like yoga and paddleboarding (and the amazing combination of the two), discovering amazing new friendships, finding new rewarding jobs, mending and repairing broken hearts... all of it. It's been a journey, as every bit of life is, and it's been one that has taken me temporarily and mysteriously away from my love of cooking. I have discovered that food isn't the only way to nourish my soul. But, lately, when it does, I'm more content helping in the kitchen or having someone do the cooking for me. There are some nights, though, when I absolutely must reach for my favorite chef knife, begin chopping an onion, and cook a nourishing meal for my family or anyone that might eat it.
The following was one of those nights that seem to pop up all too rarely for me lately...

It is past midnight... I never stay up this late anymore. Something is driving me to get my thoughts out tonight to the mysterious online public out there. I'm breaking my two year writing hiatus.
I seem to be seeking refuge in the experience of cooking good food again and in nourishing those I love around me.
I've been cooking since yesterday after work nonstop and I feel like I could keep going without stopping to sleep. What is this? What has gotten into me all of a sudden? Two years without posting about food, or really having the energy to keep up with my love for cooking and nourishing my family and it all seems to be pouring out of me now. Why now?
... my mother. I owe her everything. She has always been the strongest person I've known and now she is facing another battle. One more battle for her to fight (and she has made it through many), and I cannot be there to hold her hand through this one. She is in another country and all I can seem to do is cook, cook, and cook some more. I am offering food to my pregnant friends, friends who have just had a baby, friends that just had surgery... taking food to school... want to come over for dinner? Tonight I cooked three meals. Yes, three meals. Okay, so two of those are soup which is technically a first course of a full meal, but seriously... soup is a one course meal in this case. I have three kids, remember?  My husband will never believe me (unfortunately for him he's out of town right now). My refrigerator is stocked with two different vegetable soups at the moment (potato leek and cream of celery, carrot, and parsnip), a ground turkey and veggie pasta sauce, freshly roasted pumpkin for the kale and pumpkin stuffed shells I'm making tomorrow, and two veggie drawers overflowing with vegetables that could probably add up to at least three more complete meals. Oh, and what's that on my stove? Two big pots... in one I'm soaking white beans for a kale and white bean soup and in the other I have red beans for my traditional Colombian red beans and rice. Yep- don't believe me, do you? Try me. Call me up... ask me for dinner. I dare you. I'll be prepared. But don't do it unless you want this girl to enthusiastically show up on your front step with a Tupperware of food that I've put my complete heart and soul into and can't wait for you to try. I will probably give you some sort of silly instructions that you could have figured out- how to heat it, how it might taste best... just humor me. I've put everything into every bite you're about to take and I'm so stoked to be sharing it with someone I love! Because what is food if you can't share it?
All of this brought me to really think... what nourishes us? I'm up until midnight cooking (and now writing about it) tonight because it nourishes me to think about feeding my kids, my family, my friends.  My children's smiles nourish me. My family nourishes me. My friends' company, smiles, laughter, tears and stories shared nourish me. Love nourishes me. And none of this could have ever been if my own stupendous mother hadn't nourished me with all of these things first. She taught me what to love, what to value, what not to take for granted. Not only that, she taught me how... how to appreciate the important things. She taught me how to eat from the plate of life... figuratively and non-figuratively.
And so, I realize tonight, that it is fitting that this is all coming out of me through this outpouring of meals that I have been cooking since yesterday. I have the need to release things learned, perhaps. Moreso, I have the need to give back and nourish those around me. Because of my mom, I gained a great appreciation and love not only for food and cooking, but for life and taking a real bite out of everything it has to offer... every day. And so I give back in those ways that I can. I may not be by my mother's side every day of this difficult battle, but every day there is a part of me that gives back to the world around me in some way because she taught me to do so.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Living on an island means the fish seems to practically jump onto our plates! It's fantastic!!!
About a week ago I had a neighbor knock on my door with a bag of his catch of the day- mahi mahi- in hand!
 "Hi, may name is Joe. I live just across the street from you. Do you like fish?"
me: "YES!"
Joe: "I thought this might be a good way to inroduce myself to a few of the neighbors... I have a lot of extra fish from my catch today."
Holy mackerel (gratuitous fish pun)!!! That is the BEST way to introduce yourself!!! We'll never forget Joe now!
And just like that I had fresh mahi mahi for dinner that night. My kids LOVED it! They even turned away the burgers I was originally preparing for dinner! And that was also the night that my husband brought home his own catch from deep sea fishing that day- grouper and mahi! Hooray!

And just when I thought we were getting low on our fish supply, yesterday evening we had a friend bring over about two pounds of freshly caught fish that were just given to her by a guy that didn't know what to do with it all! And just like that we created an impromptu get-together around the fish. It wasn't our catch that day, but we were glad to have it just the same! I had some limes sitting on my counter and so I decided to slice up some of the fish and prepared a quick ceviche while we chatted on my back porch waiting for the sunset. I sliced some red onions very thinly and layered it on top of the fish, a little sea salt and pepper and fresh cilantro on top and we let it sit covered for about 10-15 minutes. (some people call this lime- frying). Basically you let the fish sit in the lime juice, onion, and cilantro until the fish turns opaque in color. We enjoyed the ceviche while I grilled several more filets with a little more sea salt and pepper, and I smothered a couple of filets in wasabi just for fun... it was a very subtle wasabi flavor! The fish turned out very moist and tender... perfect! Black beans and white rice on the side and we had a perfect sunset island dinner!

We've only been here a month, but we are already living the island lifestyle! Stay tuned for more island eats... and I promise to include pictures next time. Let your imagination guide you for now...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes waiting to be made famous...
 A great chick flick that is said to have started a big following for the now-popular Southern sidedish. While many argue the origins of this dish now and since the movie came out, I cannot argue that it is an interesting one and a really tasty one if done correctly.
My favorite restaurant in town does a fabulous fried green tomato stack with goat cheese on top, and I think there might be some bacon in there, too? I might have to go back this week before we leave to double check that! Anyway, it's amazing, so tonight I tried my best at what has become my favorite southern appetizer.
My plan was to make shrimp and grits to really round out this southern meal, but it turned out that most of my kitchen had already been packed up and I just didn't have the right measuring tools for the job. Alas, mac and cheese would have to do as the side- Cakes was extremely disappointed at this as she also loves grits and was looking for them when I served dinner, but the boys didn't even flinch. Well, mac and cheese is also considered a southern staple, so I didn't deviate too far from my plan.
There is nothing complicated about cooking fried green tomatoes.  Slice the tomatoes, not too thin so that they'll hold up through the frying process. Dredge them in a beaten egg, and then a flour and bread crumb or cornmeal mixture.  I'll be honest since it's the first time I've ever cooked them myself, there was a tanginess that I could have done without. As I began writing this post I did a little research on fried green tomatoes and found out that a good way to "mellow them out" is by boiling them just a bit in water before dredging them to be fried. Interesting. I probably should have done my research before I cooked them, but I will have to settle for perfecting this recipe the next time around. One last sidenote: I think a little goat cheese and maybe a drizzle of really sweet balsamic vinegar with some caramelized onions on top of the fried green tomatoes would have done the trick tonight (and always!), but I was working with limited supplies so plain would have to do.

Fried Green Tomatoes served up with local Garlic Shrimp
Anyone out there a fan of the dish? Any expert pointers on how to prepare them?