A perfect sea urchin

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Running before the Storm

There is a thunder storm predicted for early this evening, and it is going to be chasing me as I head out on a quest like that of knights of old. The quest is part and parcel of living in the South. Even here in Atlanta, some Yankee delicacies are hard to come by at a reasonable price. One such delicacy is spinach pasta. Whole Foods has it or should have it. Their own brand comes in one pound bags at about the same cost as Kroger's Private Selection which comes in neither spinach nor whole wheat. I want to make spinach penne and pinke eyed pea salad for Shabbos and Memorial Day. The soybean and rice casserole I concocted late Tuesday night, will not last much beyond Sunday. It is good to have lots of cooked food in the fridge.

Still it will take work to obtain the spinach penne. First, I will have to take a bus to either Kensington or Avondale MARTA train station and then a train to Candler Park. From there, I will board the #2 bus to Ponce. I can walk a mile up Ponce and just ride the train home or catch a #2 bound in either direction and ride the trains home. The #2 does not run all that well or conveniently. The trip is an involved one with way too many moving parts, yet I want my spinach penne very badly. Will I make the long trip for it? The answer is maybe.

Meanwhile, I give myself a pat on the back for taking care of the soy beans. I'm glad I bought them even if they take two hours to make. I can use more pasta because half the egg noodles are gone and most of the rice is now gone as well. It is good to be getting rid of stuff. I did not get to the half a cabbage quietly rotting in a produce drawer. Maybe I'll make stir fry early in the week next week, but I now also have a huge pan of roasted beets and black radish. This is a medeley made in heaven and a product of the DeKalb Farmer's Market that sells both topless beets and black radishes for a reasonable price. The beets are sweet, and cooked black radish packs a pleasant kind of bite. Root vegetable haters need not apply.

Eileen H. Kramer -- May 26, 2011

Grim Sentinel

How is that for a title. Well the bucket of soaking soybeans will have sat for forty-eight hours on my stove. I hope they haven't fermented. I'm going to cook them tonight to make soybean, rice, and cabbage casserole. It's time to start cooking again. It's time to make a "beta entree." It's time to make salad for Open Door, time to be a good citizen, and use up the leftovers. I also need to shuck some pink eyed peas.

I wanted English peas, but I missed a short, expensive season for this delicacy. I got pink eyed peas instead. I need to get spinach penne for them. I need to do more shopping and start paying more attention to the kitchen. It's back to work, but the work is a labor of love. I also need kosher toasted seasme oil and soy sauce which means a trip to Publix. I can swing that. I tell myself that now, though there are numerous other tempatations out there to keep a person out of the kitchen.

Bean salad is a delicacy. Bean casseroles taste like home. I know there is something good at the end of the road, but I got home late last night and found myself unable to cook those soybeans. Now I sit here feeling guilty about the whole business. Go figure. I should feel guilt about the two week old cabbage. Is it any good any more. It will probably still be good enough for cooking. I think of a steaming stove. I picture myself running with sweat. I tell myself it won't be as long a night as I think it will be. I try not to listen to myself sometimes.

Eileen H. Kramer -- May 24, 2011

Embarassment of Riches

To say I had a good time at the Farmer's Market on Sunday was an understatement. They had chickpeas and fresh field peas. I bought a bit more than a pound of lima beans and a bit more than a pound (You lose some weight from the pods) of fresh chick peas. Suddenly it is spring, and the best beans in the world are here! I wonder how this happened so quickly. This took me by surprise, and that is a real understatement!

Now, what does one do with all these lovely shelly beans. Well, one shucks them. That is kind of a no-brainer. Someone has bred easy-to-shuck lima beans, or maybe I have just gotten better at the job. Sunday night, watching my avie dance in Second Life and shucking butter beans, I felt more like myself than I have in weeks. The mushroom soup I made with them (really mushroom stew) was divine. Fresh limas taste...like frozen limas but...better. The ones I had were intermediate between baby limas or butter beans and Ford Hooks. They were the green kind. I guess the speckled kind come out later.

Fresh beans have a mild flavor. All beans are pretty mild even if they taste...beanie. We don't really have good words to describe food tastes. Still, these are not the beans you drown with lots of garlic or hot sauce. You pay a premium for them, spend time shucking them, and then you don't want to cook them to death. You want to treat them right. The mushroom soup with sauteed vegetables and spices was a good treatment.

This weekend I am making chickpea escarole casserole (with fresh chickpeas) with egg noodles. The sweet, delicate egg noodles, will harmonize with the mild but assertive taste of the chickpeas and the strong taste of the escarole which I'll brighten with carrot. I put carrot in everything. There will be the business end of a bunch of scallions somewhere in the dish too. I'll start working on the dish tonight. After I score ZOID, I'll sit in front of the computer and while Iyoba, my Second Life avie dances, I'll shuck the chick peas. The rest won't be so hard.

As a side dish I am making carrot, nectarine (I have dried nectarines left from my trip to Fort Worth), and pineapple salad. I bought the canned pineapple Sunday evening. Yes, I really do eat like this. I used to call this being a walking stomach on two feet, when I felt uncharitable, and gourmandisme when I wanted to laugh at myself. These days, I just say I am lucky to have good food. Maybe that's an improvement.

Eileen H. Kramer -- May 17, 2011

Have Patience

That is what I had to tell myself last night. The person who rode the express bus and walked out of Kensington Station was not the same person who arrived at Farmer's Market. Something about the warm early evening and the wonderful offerings at the Your DeKalb Farmer's Market changed me. I was not longer asleep on my feet and dragged down by nameless worries and pain.

I was calm, awake, and then bedazzled. There were English peas, cranberry beans, and fresh chick peas for sale. Both the black radishes and jimcama looked fantastic. Even cabbaage was down to .39 a pound, and the papayas were ripe and not too awful. I felt bad I could not buy any English peas or fresh chick peas, but I'll be shopping again on Sunday. They will still all be there. It is time for some serious pasta and bean salads. The hot weather is here, or maybe it is going away and will come back.

I walked home enjoying the moonlight and only minimally dreading the knife work. My own skill surprized me. Maybe I had a grudge and a jicama and a black radish both make great proxy targets for violence. I made short work of both and watched my salad bowl fill with white chunks, some sweet, some pungent, and all porous enough to absorb a simple, tangy, Italian style dressing. I also cut up half the cabbage. I did not need the carrots. One always needs the scallions.

Later that night I learned I had not forgotten how to process a papaya: peel it on to a torn open plastic bag, scoop out the seeds, and cut it. Don't squeeze it too hard. You will gouge it and I will find the acids and enzymes seeping into my skin and doing battle. My eczema is bad enough right now that anything can set it off. Papayas are notorious, but they are worth the work. They taste like melon on steroids.

My papaya had a bit of an acidic/enzyme bite, but papaya and mangoes both improve from sitting a night in the refridgerator. They will make a great Shabbos dessert. The slaw is also for Shabbos. I will have either matzoh or flat bread and either cheese or nut butter. This is not a bad combination, an entree of sorts, a good tasting seasonal side dish, and dessert. I feel like I have taken care of myself.

I have often said that Atlanta is a food city. Jicama, black radishes, and papayas are not available as cheaply and at such good quality in other places. Atlanta's foodieness has saved me from myself...for now.

Eileen H. Kramer -- May 13, 2011

And the Cupboard was...

Well it is almost bare. I have travel rations, matzoh, and not much else. I've even eaten most of my frozen vegetables. One sad, afflicted, runt of a Rome apple and a single mandarine make up my total stock of fresh fruit, and Shabbos is coming? Finish Passover and then go to a conference, and your kitchen will be utterly depleted. I used my last bag of butter peas and a few sorry leftovers to make tomato butter pea soup which I've been eating with broken matzoh. Leftover peanutbutter on Rye Vita sandwiches have been my lunch. The fruit has barely held out. I need to get to Farmer's Market. I had planned to do it Monday, but fell asleep. I planned to do it Tuesday but had to rush home. I planned to do it Wednesday but.... Here it is Thursday, and tomorrow is Shabbos.

Worse yet, I can't begin to inspire myself to cook for Shabbos. I want corn bread. I don't want a hot casserole. I feel way too warm. I want either celery root remoulade or Mexican or atomic cole slaw. For some reason side dieshes are the easy part of all this. The main dish baffles me. All I want it corn bread. I have no flour in the house. I threw out the tail end of the white flour and whole wheat flour before Passover, and did the same for the one or two ounces of corn meal that remained. I had no rye or soy flour. I need to get a sack of flour and a container of yellow corn meal. I also am going to end up cooking up the world's fiercest storm tonight if my energy holds out. Right now, I want a vacation on the couch. I usually look forward to buying and hoarding food, but a vacation on the couch would beat everything.

Even the thought of knife work does not excite me. Something has gone wrong. I hate finding myself in this state. Only the cole slaw sounds good. The remoulade would also be good, but it doesn't really go with corn bread. I can't even get excited about fresh fruit, not even mangoes or papayas. I do not know what has come over me. I can't picture a grim shopping trip or a grim trip to the kitchen, yet that is what stretches out in front of me. I have an empty dance card for Shabbos so I have to cook. I know it will be worse for me if I don't shop or cook. I've never had to goad myself like this before.

Eileen H. Kramer May 12, 2011

The Errant Mango and the Prodigal Mandarines

At the end of Passover I bought three yellow, Atafulo mangoes, and one nice looking Tommy mango. There were no golden nugget mandarines. The golden nugget mandarines look and taste like uglifruit, though are smaller and less expensive. Some smart breeder has finally created uglifruit for the masses. Three cheers, but there were no golden nugget mandarines to be had. I bought the mangoes instead. Mangoes are a great treat for Passover. Atufulo mangoes are a great delicacy...so I thought. Mine were sour.

Still I ate them last Monday night, and like papayas they get sweeter as they sit in the refridgerator. Maybe some of the strong acides inthem dissipate. I don't know. What I know about tropical fruit is learned the hard way, since I wasn't raised eating it. I like it well enough though. As for the Tommy mango, it vanished. I looked on top of the fridge. I looked in the fridge. I began to wrry. Usually in a case like this, the errant fruit which was on the way to being ripe is in a backpack, and usually it is growing or rotting. In this case, though, my backpack was empty. The Tommy mango sat in its plastic bag on the day bed in my living room. It was unharmed, and quietly ripening. I found a new home for it to ripen on top of the fridge, and ate it as dessert this Shabbos. It was excellent.

I did not buy an mangoes of any type this week. I had planned to do so, but there were those golden nugget mandarines. They were back and thirty cents a pound cheaper. This should be their season, given that they are really uglifruit. I'm just sure of it. I bought a three pound bag. I can even take them on the bus to my conference. I'll eat the mineolas for now. They should keep me from getting colds. I'm looking forward to more mangoes and also papayas later this spring. May is the month of tropical fruit.

Eileen H. Kramer -- May 2, 2011