Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Morning World!

The light is changing. Days are getting longer now. Morning awakenings feel groggy and hopeful. I hear the chirping of birds. Sunlight streams through the crack in the curtains. Pulling them back reveals pockets of snow on the hill below, snow tucked in shadows and low places, but the sun is doing her work.

Soon will come the crocus, daffodil, and asparagus; all of those early-spring flavors that make us feel like airing out indoor places. Soon, a jacket will suffice when going for a walk in the park. Soon, the smell of the damp soil will be released from its frozen prison.

And soon, I will be released from my winter routine of going to a gym and laboring on a machine that simulates walking, running, biking, moving. (I prefer the one like “climbing.”) Is it any wonder that gymnasiums originated in frigid Russia? But soon I will be released from my Siberian prison, and the time change will allow me evening hours of light, sunset, and dusk in which to play.

This time of year I always get restless for the warmth of the sun on my bare skin, and release from hibernation. It’s a hopeful kind of restless, because the change is certain.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Song For Late Winter

Well, here it is, February. The groundhog saw his shadow and there's a snowstorm on it's way. That's not so bad from a cozy home, Senegalese Chicken Soup simmering on the stove and snacking on some jalapeno-flavored potato chips.

For some reason, Spring-cleaning is coming a little early to me this year, and I've been feverishly cleaning the house and office. Tonight, I will meet the usual people at the usual pub. It's a good Thursday.

Here's a song and a recipe.

Senegalese Chicken Soup

1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup curry powder
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 large can (6 cups) chicken broth
1 Tbsp sugar
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1.5 lb chicken breasts*
2 bunches green onion or scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

*Optional: marinade chicken breasts ahead of time (at least 1 hour) in a mixture of curry powder, garlic pepper, and water

In a deep pot, cook onions in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute two minutes. Add curry powder, cayenne pepper, and coriander and fry for an additional two minutes, adding small amounts of olive oil if mixture becomes too dry.

Add chicken broth and scrape bottom of pot well with a wooden spoon. Add tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and salt & pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom often. Do not boil.

While soup is simmering, cook chicken breasts in boiling water until done (15-20 minutes). Drain and either cube or shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Combine peanut butter and 1/3 of soup in blender or food processor and blend until pureed. Once smooth, add back to remaining soup and stir well.

Add chicken and scallions to soup and cook 5 minutes. Add peanuts and cilantro either as a garnish or simply stirred into entire pot of soup. Serve.

Note: if you plan to serve this soup to those you know do not enjoy food that is even a little spicy, leave out the cayenne pepper altogether. There is enough heat in the curry powder to give it a bite without ruining the overall effect of the soup.