Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Flood

Hello dear readers!
As you may or may not know, in the last month or so, the city I live in and the city I grew up in have taken a major beating.

(Chicago Tribune)

(New York Times)

In Iowa City, the University is struggling to great ready for the fall semester. The building where ALL of my fall classes are scheduled may not be open.

Unlike the tornado that stuck our city two years ago, the effects of this flood will likely last into the next many years. We have been lucky enough not to have been directly affected, nor have any of our family members. We feel lucky to be safe and feel lucky to live in such a great community.

Moving on to more exciting and blog-related matters, the hubby and I have moved into the new house!

While moving and unpacking are enough to test our commitment to marriage and not killing each other, we've managed to get *mostly* settled in. By that I mean that the kitchen is functional, and that we finally got the new table I refinished into the dining room.

We're really enjoying the back yard, despite the sea of bugs that populates it this time of year. Next summer we'll have a garden next to the garage.

Since the important things are finally in order, I'm back to blog about all the awesome exciting stuff I've been working on.

First, I have had the pleasure of writing a restaurant review for Little Village, a little zine about Iowa City. Look for my reviews and maybe some recipes in the print editions around town and some on the website.

More importantly, I've been making good use of the new kitchen and cooking a lot of awesome stuff. Aside from the usual sources for inspiration, (SUMMER!) my new yard has borne us a great culinary gift: raspberries. Lots of 'em.

The former owner told us she harvested 33 pints from the bushes last summer. It's all we can do to keep up. I pick around FOUR cups every time I go out there. Needless to say, I've been making lots of pies. And jam. And sauce. While I've barely scratched the surface of the pastry universe, my next big project is trying to incorporate the berries into savory dishes. Stay tuned for more of that.

On to the food!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas

I do not make a habit of buying pre-made seasonings. This is because many of them contain salt as one of their main ingredients. So, aside from not being able to control the salt in your dish, if you want more heat or flavor from the seasoning, you end up with too much salt.

That said, I make exceptions for curries and now, jerk. If you've never had jerk seasoning, it's a mix of sweet and fiery heat. There was once a great Jamaican restaurant downtown, but since they left I've been experimenting with my own version of jerk chicken and the side it's traditionally served with, rice and peas. This little jar has answered my prayers.

Look for Walkerswood jerk seasoning. It's delish, fast, easy, and the list of ingredients is pleasingly short.

Scallions, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Salt, Black Pepper, Allspice, Nutmeg, Citric Acid, Sugar, Thyme

To begin, sauté thinly sliced bell peppers, onions, and chicken. Stir in jerk seasoning to taste. We like it hot and use around 2 tbsps. You can always add more, but you should start with a light hand since this seasoning can be pretty hot.

Keep cooking this until the peppers and onions are cooked down.

In the meantime, make the rice and peas. The rice should be normal white rice, but the "peas" aren't in fact peas at all, but red kidney beans.

Cook rice the way you normally would replacing half of the water with coconut milk. We use light coconut milk and it works fine, but the full-fat stuff is deliciously rich. We use this ratio-

1 c. rice
1 can coconut milk+ water to make 2 1/4 c. liquid
1 can red kidney beans

Mix everything together with some sliced green onions and one whole scotch bonnet pepper.

If you've never seen a scotch bonnet, you might know of habaneros, which are of the same species. While scotch bonnets are common in the Caribbean, they can be hard to find here. Don't hesitate to substitute a habanero if you can't find the scotch bonnets. Don't be afraid of the heat these chilis are known for. While these peppers are extremely hot, if you throw an entire pepper into the rice, it will infuse the rice with its flavor but not its heat, which lies in the seeds and membranes inside the chili.

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until the rice absorbs all the liquid.

Voila- jerk chicken with rice and peas

White Bean Soup with Sage and Garlic

I normally prefer my soups to be thick chunky and hearty, so this pureed cream soup is a bit of a departure for me. I had some leftover cream and always have beans in the house, so it was easy to throw it together. I used one potato to thicken the soup.

peel and boil one potato. In the water you've boiled it in, add
4 cans of great northern beans
chicken stock to bring the level to around 6 cups

Put all this into a blender or food processor just until smooth. (Let the soup cool a bit first unless you want to risk scalding hot liquid spurting forth from your blender)

Return this mix to the heat, then add some cream or milk. I had around 3/4 of a cup of cream.

(In this shot, you can see my new electric stove. More on that next post)

While this simmers, fry up some thinly sliced garlic and a few sage leaves. This will be the garnish for the soup.

Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and the fried sage and garlic. Yum.

On a side note, I've put together a shabby little window box full of herbs. Left to right we have rosemary, oregano, sage, lavender, thyme, a failed dill plant that I'm hoping will come back, mint, and basil.

Enjoy for now, and more to come from the new kitchen.
I'll leave you with the one of my favorite views in the new house from the dining room into the back yard. We have hydrangeas, too! :)


Niki said...

Yum! I had no idea you kept a food blog! I'll be back frequently to see what's cookin'! I *love* the picture of your raspberries. They look scrumptious!

eobiont said...

please let me know where you are buying walkerswood in IC. They used to have it at HyVee on North Dodge and now they don't. I am about to order some on Amazon, but would rather buy it locally. Please help.

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