Monday, September 21, 2009
I have done a lot of dancing in my life. I began studying ballet when I was six, danced seriously through high-school, continued, though not as rigorously, in college, and for the last eighteen years I have been traumatizing my body in various ways by performing, teaching, and staging the works of Merce Cunningham. Ok, it hasn’t always been painful, but age, and the ferocity with which I approach my profession (both physically and mentally) have taken a toll.
Lately, my back has been bothering me so much that even bending to shave my legs in the shower has been painful. I was worried I’d soon end up like old cats who develop hair mats when they can no longer groom their haunches, and, unwilling to accept this unattractive fate, quickly called the doctor. An x-ray revealed a severe lessening of space between the L-5 and L-4 vertebrae (in my lumbar spine), and likely arthritis. I did a little research, and read that ginger is very effective in decreasing the inflammation associated with arthritis, and saw the same thing about vitamin C-rich pineapple, which also contains a mixture of enzymes called bromelain, which is known to relieve the swelling associated with several other conditions, too.
Dancer or not, it can’t hurt to add these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. They will help relieve pain, and may also reduce the risk of some cancers. My acupuncturist prescribed the ayurvedic anti-inflammatory herb boswellia, and I’ve been eating about a tablespoon of raw ginger every morning after breakfast. I went to a yoga class specifically geared for back care, and between these natural remedies and the following pineapple salad, I am in much less pain, and my legs are, again, as smooth as silk.
Pineapple, Red Pepper, Jalapeño, and Basil Salad Recipe
adapted from Savoury Pineapple Salad from World Food Cafe by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott
One pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
One red pepper, seeded, and cut into strips
One jalapeño, chopped into small pieces
A handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces (I used purple basil this time)
Combine everything, and serve chilled.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Quinoa Salad Recipe, Green Beans with Mushrooms Recipe (Sem Aur Khumbi), Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds Recipe
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Last night, anticipating a vibrant sunset, I poured a glass of wine and went up to my roof to listen, look, and think. Watching the planes come in to land at La Guardia, all in a lineup, five in a row, I wondered if anyone in those planes was passing above their house, like I sometimes do, and perhaps saying to a seat mate, “See, there? The tall building at the edge of the green, there? That’s my house; I live there,” and I wasn’t sure why I felt connected to all those people up there flying around.
I was comforted by the meditative white noise of the whirring cars on the BQE, and by watching the F trains come and go, shuttling thousands of people from work and play and adventures, taking them to and from events filled with grief, euphoria, or perversion. I wondered about the crimes of the people housed in the nearby prison, and I felt for those falsely accused. They don’t feel this perfect breeze on their skin, watch the ferries pass; they don’t see the pink and red ribbons appear in the sky and turn Manhattan a kind of glowy steel color in contrast, the imminence of the city’s lights a given.
I wondered if the new cell phone tower on my roof made my landlord any money, and if the waves were giving us all cancer. And then I dismissed this thought, imagining the thousands of cell phone towers all over the city projecting waves out and around, and I painted the waves in color, and I bet they look like a giant 70s thread sculpture/wall-hanging thing of a light blue and dark blue ship with tall sails, and I bet our brains are right in the middle of all those threads, between the pins at the edge, getting incessantly bombarded from the bow and the stern and the mast. Bad for our health, yeah. Probably doesn’t matter if there’s a tower right above my head.
The smell of the baking bagels from the roof is even stronger than from my apartment. These bagels are a tease: cinnamon and raisin, onion, blueberry, it doesn’t matter; these bagels are not for sale. Hermetically bagged for shipment behind those walls, I wouldn’t even know it was a bagel factory were it not for the mistakes they throw away in the dumpsters outside and for the bagel-making people hanging around, smoking, transparent shower caps on their heads, and wearing what look like white nurse outfits. Maybe they're saving the misfit bagels from the rats.
I am as at peace in that moment on my roof as I may have ever been. This is one of those try-to-remember moments when things aren’t going right. You know, when you're alone, and you try to zip your dress, and you can’t quite get the zipper to the top, and you're unable to find the single-girl gadget that your sister gave you to elongate your reach when no one is around to help you attach your bracelet, or zip your dress, so you have to change clothes, and you're uncomfortable, and you hate what you have on because it isn’t the original thought? Or when there’s a nor'easter, and hail is pelting you in your face; water is leaking into your boots; your scarf is strangling you in the wind like it did Isadora (but not all the way); you’re late for teaching class because the trains are flooded; a stranger yells at you for bumping her accidentally with your bag, and you find out someone has charged trips to South Africa and Thailand on your debit card? During those kinds of days I will try to remember this moment. This moment, up here with the breeze and the planes and the strangeness and the millions of people all around me; this moment feels like home.
Purslane and Cherry Tomato Yogurt Salad Recipe
Without the tomatoes, this is a classic Turkish recipe from the Aegean region, commonly served cold in the summertime. Purslane, a weed, is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet, and contains even Omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t find purslane, you could easily substitute baby spinach, or any other tender green of your choosing.
a substantial amount of purslane (or spinach), washed and trimmed
some cherry tomatoes, halved
a quart of yogurt (I used goats’ milk yogurt)
one garlic clove, minced
salt, to taste
Combine everything in a bowl, stir, and chill.
When ready to serve, drizzle with a little olive oil.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe, Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil, Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
In my life, lately, a phony has been masquerading as the real deal. I got married to someone who committed to me, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live, and then mysteriously bailed on me after a mere year and a half. And In Lyon, France, once the gastronomic capital of the culinary world, the cooks in those marvelous traditional bouchons are using Maggi bouillon cubes instead of long-cooked homemade stock. The workhorse of French cooking, stock is the basis for everything here, soups, sauces, and without it, you have a house with no foundation, a choreography with no dancers, a marriage without a husband.
Planning some blog entries, and wanting to make something traditional, from the bouchons, I looked at the menu of my favorite one, Café des Fédérations, and saw oeufs en meurette listed. I’ve been curious about these poached eggs in red wine sauce for a while now, and having only Saturday to cook, I thought it would make an excellent, and very French, brunch.
At the market I found shallots, eggs, garlic, poitrine de porc (to make the tasty ham strips called lardons), freshly churned butter, parsley, and hearty whole wheat bread. A tannic red, a Bourgogne, came from the wine shop, and poultry stock or veal stock from? I was stuck. I couldn’t roast bones and make stock in my tiny apartment kitchen, and didn’t want to use chemical-laden bouillon cubes, but this is France, surely there is homemade stock available somewhere.
I asked at the butcher, and they drew me a map to Picard, a strange and antiseptic store full of only freezers and frozen foods, but no frozen stock. I asked at the grocery store. No. I asked at the bouchon called Chez Paul, across the street from Café des Fédérations, and they directed me to a gourmet shop around the corner. Yes, they will have it, I was assured. It comes in a small container, just what we use, she said. Yet, once at the shop, they presented me with Maggi bouillon cubes. No, not that, “Je cherche le vrai fond de veau ou volaille,” So, as a last resort I hesitantly entered my favorite bouchon.
This bouchon is where my future husband and I celebrated our engagement with our invited families. Mine came from the US, his from Switzerland and France, and there we ate our way through the various specialties of Lyon: lentil and poached egg salads, quenelles with crayfish and lobster sauces, roasted leg of lamb, tripe sausages in mustard sauce, and Saint-Marcellin and cervelle de canut cheeses for dessert. The food at this restaurant was phenomenal, and the convivial atmosphere begged for a repeat visit.
I entered the restaurant and told the manager that I had been looking all over for real veal or poultry stock, and would they please just sell me a small container of it, I would be most appreciative, s’il vous plait.
“On n’a pas le vrai fond de veau,” she said, dropping the news like a week-old baguette. You what? You don’t have real veal stock? What with all the sauces you are making? Oeufs en meurette is on your menu, for crying out loud, and you don’t make your own stock? No, she says, we use bouillon cubes from the store, like everyone else.
So, armed with the truth, I've got a plan. Before my departure to NY, I'd like to eat at a bouchon as a farewell to Lyon, and I have decided that I will first call up a few places to ask which ones use homemade ingredients, including stocks, before choosing my destination. How I wish it were as easy with people. Hello, husband? Are you the real deal? Do you roast your own bones? What time is the last service? Oh, and are you insistent on turning tables, or will you let me stay awhile?
Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce (Oeufs en Meurette)
adapted from a recipe at épicurien
Note from Banu: In keeping with the tradition of this post, I will call this kinda sorta phony oeufs en meurette, because I've seen recipes that appear more authentic than this one, and now that I look carefully, the recipe I used as a guide is Belgian! Other recipes use a bouquet garni (an assortment of herbs assembled to add flavor and fragrance to the broth), and ask you to poach the eggs directly in the sauce, before reducing it. As a novice egg poacher, I like this recipe because the eggs are poached in a separate, albeit milder (more boring) broth, but the filaments of egg white that remain after novice egg poaching will float around in a sauce you discard, and not one you eat. This is a fairly simple way to get the main idea of the oeufs en meurette, while still using real stock, which is easily found in liquid containers in most grocery stores in the US. Or, for the realest deal oeufs en meurette, you could make your own.
8 very fresh eggs
3 shallots, chopped
about a cup of bacon or pancetta, chopped (or, if you’re in France, poitrine de porc, demi sel - lard)
one bottle of tannic red wine, such as Bourgogne or Syrah
1 1/2 to 2 cups of veal stock or poultry stock
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
8 small slices of crusty wheat bread
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 stalks of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan, and add the bacon or pancetta or lardons, and cook over medium high heat. When the pork is browned slightly, remove the meat from the pan, and saute the shallots in the butter, until soft and translucent. Add 3/4 of the bottle of red wine and the stock, and let the mixture reduce over low flame until 2/3 of it remains. Add the pork back to the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley, and remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, bring a liter of water, the remaining red wine, and the red wine vinegar to a very low simmer (the bubbles should barely break the surface). Very carefully, add an egg to the water, cooking them one at a time, so the whites don’t break up. Poach, gently, in the liquid for 3-4 minutes, or until the yolk is cooked a little, but still soft. Take out the egg, and let it rest on a paper towel, to soak up the extra liquid. Repeat with the other eggs.
Toast the slices of bread, and rub them with the garlic halves.
Just before serving, incorporate the flour into the remaining two tablespoons of butter by cutting them together with a knife, or a fork. Stir this butter and flour mixture into the sauce.
Place a little sauce on a plate, place two slices of toast on each plate, and top with an egg each. Pour a little more sauce over the eggs. Serve immediately.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust, Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins,
German Good Friday Pancakes and Homemade Sausage Patties