Friday, February 24, 2012

My Blank Canvas

The debauchery of Fat Tuesday is behind us. I am not in pain from too much drink and gyrating until dawn. No, rather, I am in pain (mostly my back) from rising with the dawn and grabbing my shovel to prepare some earth. I have a spot that received a heaping load of aged manure, and now that that pile of nutrients have been dispersed about I am left with an unanticipated garden spot. So, I dug, and shook dirt free from invasive grasses and their roots then dug some more.  This unexpected square of prepared earth is going to be home of future sunflowers – I adored their leggy beauty last season, and the cardinals appreciated the feed. Not to mention the add space I now have where I planted them last year. Seed shopping I will go this weekend.

Part of yesterday’s chores was to sow seeds that where frost tolerant, or preferred a cool soil to germinate in. This was a something I learned last year when I planted English peas in late May, a seedling that I bought from a favorite farmer in Union Square. I flew that nascent plant down south to its new home. They took, started to climb and even sprouted delicate, pale lavender/white flowers. A few of the blooms actually set and become pods filled with snuggling peas – then summer’s heat set in putting the kibosh on this springtime treat. Those peas were the most expensive foods I ever ate – I think I got a total of two-dozen peas. That would have been about $20.00 a pea if I amortized the cost of the flight but I was in NYC on other business as well.  They say, live and learn and hopefully don’t repeat the same mistake.  We know new ones are on their way.

As the country has enjoyed a mild winter, and we had only few days where the temperature did not climb above freezing I am feeling cocky and hopeful that those seeds sprout and climb. Can you give up the possibility of frost for Lent? 

Red Bean and Pork Stew – yields 8 servings
2-cups dried kidney beans  
1-1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder – cut into large chunks
½-pound smoked sausage – such as Andouille or Chorizo – cut into 1-inch pieces
3-leeks – cut into 1-inch pieces
4-stalks celery – cut into 1-inch pieces
1-red pepper – seeds discard; cut into 1-inch pieces
2-poblano peppers – seeds discarded; cut into 1-inch pieces
3-medium carrots – peeled; cut into 1-inch pieces
5-garlic cloves – chopped
1 dried chipotle chili
1-tablespoon coriander seed
3 black cardamom
1-teaspoon annatto seed
1-teaspoon cinnamon
5 whole cloves
2-teaspoons cumin seed
28-ounces canned tomato
1 plantain – peeled; cut into 1-inch pieces
1 butternut squash (1-1/2 pounds) peeled and seeds discarded; cut into 1-inch pieces
2-teaspoons salt

Soak the beans in about six cup of water for 8-hours. Drain the beans, and place in a 2 to 3 quart pot and cover with about 8-cups of water. Bring to the boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the beans for an hour. Drain.

Over a high flame heat an 8 to 10 quart pot and add the pork and sausage. Cook the meat until browned, and then remove from the pot into a work bowl. Into the pot add the leeks, celery, red pepper, poblano pepper and carrot, cooking the mix for about 10 to 15 minutes wilt down and lightly brown.

While the vegetables are wilting crush all the spices together. It is fine if it is not a fine powder.

Once the vegetables have cooked mix the spices and garlic. Then add in the reserved pork sausage and beans, and canned tomato plus one cup of water. Lower the heat to medium low and cover. Cook for about an hour.

After an hour add in the butternut squash, plantain and salt. Replace the lid and lower the heat to low. Cook for an additional two hours. 

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