Rythm and Food

I really dislike being stuck for ideas about anything. It means I have no clue what the real problem is. Fortunately, this time, it was a different because I knew the problem: craving and humger. I was craving a specific flavour and I was also starving, hungry like I have never been. But, I knew I had the power to abate my hunger with whatever I’d create in my kitchen. I learned something interesting during this experienc. The body kind of undergoes a mind over matter struggle that takes place when you are experiencing severe craving and hungry at the same time.

The taste buds are busy sorting through the intense stimuli for a particular flavour while the mind is simultaneously contending with an empty stomach. If you’ve been there before then you know this condition can often cause a good cook to come up with the best menu ideas. The inspiration can be more spiritual than if you are just going through the motions. Instead, like the rythms present in a well choreographed orchestra, you cook with desire and passion that befits a musical concert. Dicing, pounding, grinding, searing, all taking place with delibrate actions by way of vital body parts and man-made cooking utensils/instruments. Alternatively, this state of mind can make cooking a very miserable experience because (I find) a craving and hunger are recipes (no pun intended) for over or under compensation for meals in the kitchen. Plus, it is 9:45pm; more like time for supper instead of dinner time.

Craving and hungry with no time to do something elaborate. This is how I felt yesterday. I was stuck for ideas on how to satisfy my intense desire for something African and Western and slandy. Getting out of this rut would take special passion because I was also very sluggish to ‘put on the pan’. I knew I didn’t want to buy take out or eat boccoccini, tomatoes and capers for dinner again today. So, I racked my brain for what to do and how to do it quickly. What would I do with the all the tomatoes, red bell pepper and onion that was sitting on my kitchen counter. My lethargy may have had something to do with the fact that I was listening to Sade. Her soothing and comforting tunes have a way of arresting even the most actively obsessive personality and lulling him or her to a state of pleasant idleness. Ahem! Don’t get me wrong I love Sade but I was not feeling her this moment. So, I changed the CD to Blu Cantrell. Anyway, while I was trying to determine what to make of my limited vegetable selection it occurred me that cooking must be like making music. I mean, seriously, most of you already know this but, putting together signs and symbols to create the notes which eventually develops chords are the basic steps of writing music. But, music isn’t appreciated unless or until it spiced up with rhythm and pitch or melody and harmony. Oh boy I hope I got that sequence right because I’m actually musically challenged. I don’t know the first ting about reading notes. But, I think my cooking skills are better than my music skills thank God because I was able to make a savoury sandwich using the left over vegetables and Moin Moin the night before. There, my fusion meal: a “sandwich” influenced by Nigerian Black-Eyed Bean patties.

There. A filling supper time inspired by my ferocious cravings where the West Meets Africa. I will provide the main ingredients in this sandwich another time. It is too nice outside to be writing :-) .

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When you need a gofer

If I could look at a food and immediately know how to prepare it without mistakes I’d be a chef. Unfortunately, I like many others have learned through trial and error and that’s how the story begins with preparing okra and many of the meals described in this blog. Growing up, I loved (and still love it) okra in the traditional way it was prepared in my household. (Maybe one day when I’m bold enough I will share for now, I’ll explain the ”other” method). I have found it necessary to experiment with other methods on consuming this exotic, healthy looking vegetable. So, quite naturally, I have to find ways to incorporate it into my diet using ingredients that are available at the grocery stores.

But, I, like some other people have been unlucky enough to try okra when it was prepared badly. It’s very easy to be turned-off okra if you’ve been confronted with a serving of okra that looks like a slimy science project. Although okra is familiar to many other cultures, some in the Western world have either never tried it or are unsure how to prepare it since fresh okra has recently become available at conventional grocery stores (I think ). If I can recall correctly, a few years ago, it was only available in its frozen form as a result, it was somewhat of a mystery (phallic looking) vegetable. Well, okra is now in almost all major grocery stores which is an indication that a it is gaining approval among the masses.

I am not quite ready to promote the widely circulated internet claims that okra is a good aphrodisiac and contains hormone balancing properties for menopausal women but, I will say this: it is a great gofer vegetable. This is because like many of the dishes you will find this blog; I’ve discovered so many more ways to consume okra to the extent that it is my go-to vegetable. For example, the other day I made tomato soup and I was looking for something to break the acidic taste. I added some okra and voila that tangy, sharp taste was neutralized exposing all the other rich herby-notes that were in the soup. Even when making yam porridge, a few stalks of okra in the mix makes all the difference. Fish and game meats are great way to compliment okra or vice versa. Oh and my absolute favourite is okra tempura. I add okra tempura to my vegetable taco and its delicious. OMG…

Before I get carried away, let me share three of the secrets I’ve discovered about preparing okra.

    1. Resist chopping into too small pieces in its raw form that way you can avoid that gummy, slimy characteristic it has when cooked.
    2. DO combine citrus (like lemon, lime, oranges) or any other highly acidic ingredients like tomatoes in order to cut the sliminess.
    3. As for making okra a center plate item, hmmmm, I’m not a big fan but if you must, try it and let me know how you’ve prepared your okra. Otherwise, I don’t think okra makes a good center plate vegan or vegetarian food unless eating a plate of your grade four science project appeals to you. But, it makes excellent soups, sauces, appetizers, snacks and compliments to main dishes.

NOW, what is a good okra recipe? You may ask. Here it is.Let me know how yours turned out.

ps:  If you want to reduce the tanginess, and a couple more stalks of okra or throw in pieces of bread chunks

Roll it up

Moin Moin Sushi Rolls

 

Make it a fun family night by making Moin Moin sushi Rolls. Recipe coming soon.

 

This is really my proudest cullinary accomplishment