A friend of mine is in the process of moving back into her kitchen post-remodel. She did the design work herself, and what a job she did! The colors, the textures, the surfaces, the hidey-holes – it’s beautiful and oh so functional. I’ve spent parts of yesterday and today helping her.
She started by polishing all the silver and washing all the glassware. Every last piece of it. Not exactly where I would have started, but it’s not my kitchen, and I volunteered to help her, which means just that. Not explain to her my modus operandi. I finally came to understand her logic today. By getting everything put away in the dining room hutch and sideboard, on Thursday we’ll be free to concentrate on the kitchen itself. And the two pantries. Two! Once the kitchen is set up, all that will remain is for her family to begin cooking in it.
Meanwhile back in my kitchen, the cats had taken over. Nothing new there; we have a constant ebb and flow as to who is in charge. I have a full southern exposure all day. In the winter, when the sun is low on the horizon, the room stays toasty in all but the very coldest weather. It’s the perfect nesting spot for all of us. There is always at least one cat sleeping in the bay window, and today there were two: Parsley and her son, Basil.
I adopted them both from a shelter a couple of years ago. Over the course of a year, all of the animals but one with whom I had moved to Montana had died. All of old age. Very old age. A pregnant Parsley (my names, there’s a surprise) had been dropped off in a box in the dark of night. Homes had been found for all the kittens but one. I couldn’t leave him behind, could I? Basil is now 2 years old, and still allows his mother to bathe him occasionally.
As I’m writing this, the sun is lowering in the west and aiming its last light into the window over the kitchen sink. Parsley and Wally (the last of the California creatures) have been taking turns soaking it up. They perch on the edge of the sink with their backs to it, eyes half-closed with delight. I hope that doesn’t shock you. Having an abundance of animals is in ways not far removed from having children: you pick your battles. All they know is that they’re following the sun. It’s not their fault the sink is where it is, right?
In California I lived in a small town on a medium-sized lake. The waterfowl were abundant, all seasons of the year. Summer brought cormorants. After diving for fish, they would perch on rocks or snags of wood, even in dead trees, with their wings and necks outstretched to dry their feathers in the sun. Parsley and Wally (14 and long story, the kids named him) remind me vaguely of them. Okay, very vaguely, but I think you get the point that watching any creature luxuriate in the sun is a pretty nice sight.
Tonight’s dinner is a combination of something old, something new. I’m using up the last of the leftover Pomelo & Jicama Salad (January 19 post) over a burrito filled with Cilantro-Lime Rice and some Spicy Beans. I’m using canned beans, yes. I know they’re one of the foods to avoid now, BPA and all, but it’s my last can. My mother rolls in her grave often enough at many of my kitchen practices (cats on the counter, for example), but today would have been her 88th birthday, so I’m going to give her a rest and use it up rather than throw it out. I’ll be good from now on and cook my own. I promise. Cats on the counter? No promises.
Serves 4; I know, for one person that’s a lot of rice. But cooked rice is such a treasure to have on hand, even if you freeze some in a ziplock bag. Besides, it takes as long to cook extra as it does to cook 1 or 2 servings.
1 1/2 cups basmati or long-grain brown rice
3 cups water (or vegetable or chicken stock)
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 or 3 tablespoons canola or corn oil
Zest and juice of 2 limes
Generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring water and salt to a boil. Add rice. Do not stir. Cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Basmati rice will be done in about 20-25 minutes; brown rice will take 10-15 minutes longer.
2. When rice is done, remove from heat. Stir in the corn oil, lime juice and zest. Finally, gently fold in the cilantro. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
SPICY BLACK BEANS
1 small onion (or 1/2 large), 1/4″ dice
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
15 ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
Juice of 1/2 orange
Chipotle chile powder to taste
Sea or kosher salt to taste
1. While rice is cooking, prepare the beans. In a stainless steel saucepan, film the bottom with corn oil. Heat over medium-high heat. When hot (the oil will shimmer, or “ribbon”), add the onions and a pinch of salt. The salt will cook them along a bit faster by causing them to shed water. When soft, add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant.
2. Add the beans and orange juice, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are heated through. Season to taste with chipotle powder and salt.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW BURRITO
Burrito of your choice and size
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Tortilla chips, if desired
Warm a tortilla (I’m using a whole-grain tortilla) in a dry skillet over medium heat. Transfer to a plate.
Put down a layer of rice, followed by a layer of beans, followed by a layer of Cotija cheese (it contains less fat than cheddar, and doesn’t grate very well, but crumbles very nicely). Fold in the ends and wrap it all up. Top with Pomelo & Jicama Salad (which at this point you are welcome to call Salsa). Slice half an avocado* and arrange over the top. Garnish with some cilantro. Serve with chips, if you wish, to scoop up the leavings.
*Leave the pit in the other half of the avocado, and wrap securely in plastic. It will still be green tomorrow.