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"We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet

Friday, May 20, 2011

Recipes for Poets - Distracted Poet's Rice and Veggie Mix-Up

Deb Ager of 32 Poems challenged readers to post a recipe for busy poets (not an oxymoron) that takes 20 minutes or less to prepare. The time limit seems apt for a species of writer that often prizes brevity. On the website, I loved reading what other poets like to eat - seems random, but somehow the dishes sounded delicious. The 32 Poems website has the details and links to other poets' recipes.

I made this last night when I wanted something super "clean" and healthy and fast. It's also in keeping with my latest obsession to reduce food waste by using up as many decaying vegetables as possible. I actually made this without oil by steaming the vegetables. While it served my purposes last night, I missed the taste of sauteed onions, so I modified it here.  
This is pretty much the brown rice and veggies recipe that we used to eat at Yaffa Cafe for $3.95 (I'm dating myself) when we were young and poor in the East Village. For all I know, Yaffa still serves it. It's perfect not only because it's fast, but forgiving: you can keep your mind on creating a perfect line break without compromising the meal. And if you add an egg or two, you can eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. 

Distracted Poet's Rice and Veggie Mix-Up
(inspired by the Yaffa Cafe)
Serves 4

2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 onion diced
2 tbs olive oil or butter
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp dry thyme
2 cups fast-cooking vegetables - I used:
- spinach leaves
- carrots diced
- broccoli florets
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and sautee onions, garlic, thyme, and rice until onions are translucent. Add water and, once water comes to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, add vegetables and cover for another 10 minutes until the vegetables are al dente and all of the water has been absorbed by the rice. You're essentially steaming the veggies while the rice finishes cooking. Add salt and pepper, mix and serve, covered with cheese. Let it sit for another 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spinach Rescue Recipe: Ispanakli Yumurta

There are mornings when I look in the mirror thinking, as Jessica Lange once said, who is that drag queen? I can see shadows and folds and bumps and crevasses that somehow exaggerate and distort my features at the same time. With my budget, there isn't a lot I can do. So I take a breath and rearrange my face to look a little less cubist. On bad days, this makes me want to crawl back into bed and start over.

On good days, I can access a deep-felt gratitude for the body that battled illness and can still survive a vinyasa class without losing consciousness, for the people who stand by me, and for a resolve and acceptance that seems to grow with age. My mother was of the belief that you become more of yourself as you grow older, for better or for worse. I do feel that right now - like a condensed flavor pack, ready for another round.

As the Chinese sages said:

Be not sad.
Be like the sun at midday.
I Ching (Book of Changes)
Translation: no matter how bad things get – shine on.
     This also seems to be good advice for the spinach curling up in my vegetable bin. It's in season right now and tastes like spring. When I bought it, the leaves gleamed emerald, crisply attentive, with sandy soil still clinging to its roots. I plucked it like a bouquet, inhaled its gritty green smell. I was gung ho on making a fresh spinach salad that night – then forgot it. Four days later, the leaves have started to loose their viagranous urgency. Their color has deepened grimly and they’ve gotten flabby, On the upside, the flavor has gotten spinach-ier. Some people think it has a nutty flavor. Not quite pretty enough to be featured in a salad, but just right to star in a Rescue Recipe.
     In my last preachy post I moralized about how throwing out food is one of the deadliest, methane-spewing eco-sins. It’s also morally evil, seeing as one out of six Americans struggles with hunger. There’s no excuse, because there are so many amazing ways to give produce a second chance.
This past-prime spinach, for example, would be great in a soup or lentil stew, and fantastic sautéed with garlic for a healthier grilled cheese sandwich. One of my favorite rescue strategies is to add it to eggs, onions, and feta. 
     I like the Turkish take on this combination called ispanakli (spinach) yumurta (eggs). I love this recipe not only because it's a way to use spinach, but I adore eggs up - like the sun shining at midday.
Shine On Spinach Yumurta
1 lb fresh spinach, course stems removed
1 large onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup feta, crumbled
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
paprika and cumin (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Clean spinach by submerging in a bowl of cold water and swishing it around vigorously to remove the sandy grit. Shake off water and remove any course stems.

Melt butter over medium heat and add onion. Cook until translucent. Add spinach, cooking until the leaves soften and wilt slightly (a little more than they already are), about 1 minute. Stir in cheese; season with salt, and pepper.

Hollow out four nests in the spinach mixture and crack one egg into each. Sprinkle with a few pinches of paprika and, if you like, cumin.

Place in oven until eggs set, then serve immediately.