Monday, November 1, 2010

Pursuit of Happiness: Making Tamales

(1) pan-roasted corn, delicata squash, string beans, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, carrots, scallions and garlic seasoned with smoked sea salt, oregano, cumin, red chili flakes and lime juice; chopping vegetables is better than any sedative.
(2) meseca flour is not like corn meal; rolling tamales is like rolling maki.
3) beautiful bundles of dough and pan-roasted vegetables in a lovely corn husk sheath. i no longer have to pine for the pasteles gifts from my washington heights neighbors.
(4) making tamales in pursuit of happiness. powerful tamales! food is a powerful way to connect with spirit and others. showing off my tamale and blue mani.

are you happy?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

S my name is Soup on a Sunday

This is the last week of my Food Project CSA For 21 incredible weeks I've enjoyed fresh, local and varied vegetables. I'm trying mightily to revel in the joy the season brought rather than despair about what lies ahead -- the sameness of broccoli and string beans.

I'm remembering with fondness that it was 90 degrees in September. One luscious night when I went to pick up my vegetables I spied a yolk-colored moon lying heavy low in the sky. The sight made my heart ache a little. The night was of full of flying things and hopeful spiders -- I burst through many webs on my short walk. Crickets hummed the hairs on my arms to attention. The air smelled like earth and pungent, peppery basil.

More recently the nights have been chilly. Too cool to detect scents. Crawling and flying things are battening down the hatches. It's so silent. There's been an abundance of fat bottomed butternut squashes radiating in crates in the dark. I've resurrected a gravy spattered recipe from my cupboard for Curried Butternut Corn Chowder, Pam's favorite. I've made the soup three weekends in a row -- we eat three and I freeze one (in anticipation of the return to broccoli and string beans.

Last week the farmers gifted us with celeriac -- a strange alien root that I've come to love and associate with the dawn of autumn. Here's what my CSA newsletter editor, Celia, had to say about it:

It is believed that celeriac was introduced to Europe via Egypt and Alexandria. Now celeriac is a highly prized vegetable in France and other European countries where it is eaten both raw and cooked. Celeriac might look intimidating but once you try a warm bowl of celeriac puree you’ll see that beauty is clearly on the inside. While this ugly duckling of the vegetable world takes longer than average to grow, it is very hardy and will store for months making it a great winter root. Its beautiful crown of green stalks can be used as fresh celery. Once peeled celery root lends itself well to roasting, boiling, and marinating, as in coleslaw.

I found this lovely recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soups cook book. The mise en place is the best part (after eating it, of course). There's nothing more grounding on a Sunday afternoon then meditatively chopping, dicing, slicing and mincing with a couple of good knives in hand and the Carolina Chocolate Drops on the iPod. "Snowden's Jig" is my new favorite. Take a listen, gentle reader:, then try this at home:

White Bean and Black Kale Minestra

2 cups of white beans, soaked overnight

aromatics: 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, a few sage leaves, a bay leaf, 4 branches of parsely

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup buckwheat, covered with cold water for at least one hour

2 - 4 tbs fruity olive oil

2 cups finely diced onion

4 mdm carrots

1 large head of celeriac

3/4 tsp oregano

3/4 tsp thyme

2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1 tbs tomato paste

splash of red wine (and a glass to sip while you're chopping. only cook with wine you would drink!)

4 cups shredded kale

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

one 15-ounce diced tomatoes with their liquid

drain and rinse beans and put them in a pot with 10 cups of water and the aromatics. bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered for an hour. add 1 1/2 tsp slat and continue cooking until beans are tender (at least 30 minutes maybe more). pick out aromatics. drain the beans and reserve the liquid. listen to summer's prayers then say good night.

heat oil in a wide soup pot. add onion, carrot, celeriac, herbs, and garlic. cook over medium heat, giving the contents a stir every so often until softened. aromatic and golden about 15 minutes. stir in tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until there's a glaze on the bottom of the pan then add a splash of wine. sip some too while reading a poem:

add the kale, the buckwheat, 1 tsp salt and 1 cup water. after a few minutes, when the kale has wilted, add the tomatoes and the beans and their liquid. bring to a boil then reduce to low, cover pot and simmer slowly until the buckwheat is plump and tender, about 25 minutes. dance with a loved one.

taste for salt and serve with freshly ground pepper, a spoonful of good olive oil and a grating of pecorino romano and a shower of gigantor homemade croutons, if you wish. chow-dee-dow-dow-down, gentle reader.

Celeriac - so ugly it's cute
Celeriac tamed
White Bean and Black Kale Minestra
Me celebrating with summer's harvest, an almost 1,700 lb pumpkin at the topsfield fair

Friday, July 16, 2010

Food glorious food, mi hermana and my cup o joy is brimmin'

Hands down this past week's most interesting food was chef Nadine Nelson's blueberry pesto with goat cheese served at the "Berries in the 'Bury" tea at the Shirley Eustis House hosted by Discover Roxbury (Check out their fabulous programming:

It was savory not sweet, complex, surprising and blue! We need more blue food! My palate hasn't been this excited since La Mar in San Francisco this past April (if you get there try the ceviche flight. Trust you won't be disappointed.

I hope I can recapture one pinkie digit of Nadine's dish by trying this internet-found recipe at home:

2 cups fresh blueberries, washed
1 cup parsley, cleaned and packed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
8 oz. goat cheese

In a blender, process all ingredients, except for goat cheese, until a paste forms. Spoon the blueberry pesto over the goat cheese, enough to cover and drip down sides. Garnish with fresh blueberries.

I plan to serve it with Iggy's Parmesan Toasts an amazing farmer's market find AND I intend to eat it while listening to Ahmad Jamal's Spartacus Love Theme I'm just saying!

By far the past week's most interesting looking dish was the Moroccan veggie couscous topped with a cumulus cloud of hummus and encircled in a basil olive oil infusion at Cafe Gitane where I dined with my sister of 48 years, Monique, and my sister of 15 minutes, Nicole. There's a long story here but the bottom line is this: I have another sister, y'all. How strange and wonderful to see my face in an unfamiliar face, to be the big sister to another! I knew my family was a Modern Family when we gathered at my son's CCNY graduation this May (Go, Cyrano!). It could have been ugly but it was hella-wonderful. Picture me, my wife, Pam, my ex-husband, Chuck, his main squeeze, Lizette, my mother, Carmen, my father, Billy, my father's wife/my step-mum, Connie, my sister, Monique, her fiance, Jacques, Mo's ex-husband, Ken. I neveh in my life see sich a sight* AND it was all good. Now there's Nicole, her hubby Jimmy and her babies Phoebe and Astrid. Welcome to the family, you crazy kids!

Shameless plug: Nicole is an amazing artist. Check her out:

*I borrowed this line from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem The Party. If you haven't read his work, well then, you absolutely must. He's too too wonderful!

Here's a taste of "When de Co'n Pones Hot"

Dey is times in life when Nature
Seems to slip a cog an' go,
Jes' a-rattlin' down creation,
Lak an ocean's overflow;
When de worl' jes' stahts a-spinnin'
Lak a picaninny's top,
An' yo' cup o' joy is brimmin'
'Twell it seems about to slop,
An' you feel jes' lak a racah,
Dat is trainin' fu' to trot—
When yo' mammy says de blessin'
An' de co'n pone's hot.

What's a "racah"? Oh well, I'll figure it out.

Mantra for the week: Dream more. Dream bigger. I love you for reading.

Chef Nadine Nelson and lady Fulani's hat
Ladies and their hats at "Berries in the 'Bury"
Veggie couscous with cloud of hummus, a basil olive oil infusion and roasted red pepper toasts (sausage extra) at Cafe Gitane -- a little bit of Cuba in NYC's West Village.
Lovely Nicole and an equally lovely black lentil and smoked trout salad.
Las hermanas
The modern family, for real though
Pone starts with corn. Hahahahahahaha.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lady Gaga's Alejandro, Kettlebells Transformation and Fresh, Local Foods

Has anyone seen Lady Gaga's video Alejandro? When she's on screen I can't look away. Check her out: As Cathy Horyn says in this week's Sunday NY Times "I like that Gaga continues to explore style whether she is backtracking through Madonna country or making more abstract connections to art and film". She's strange and I like it.

Gaga is unusually pale and thin. Who is built this way? Certainly not the gorgeous women in Vogue Curvy that I've been reading to reinforce thickerer positivity Still I can't resist the urge to tighten things up.

Over the next eight weeks I'm adding weights to my fitness routine so that I can transform my body into my life style's version of Dara Torres;-) . Last week I began to make the best of my insomnia by getting up to take a 6:00 AM Kettle Bell class at the Roxbury YMCA (side bar: oh, how I love working out with the peoples of Roxbury-- that's what's up!).

Here's the promise: Add kettlebells to your workout, and you’ll reboot a sagging metabolism, lose weight and have a better shape—all in just a few weeks. I'll keep you posted, gentle reader

Week 2 of the Food Project CSA This week: garlic scapes (that I added to a white bean soup in place of garlic cloves) and spinach (that I used to make lemon garlic spinach with sauteed chickpeas) and lots of beautiful greens. I found the most lovely strawberries at the Morse Elementary School Saturday farmer's market in Central Square. I brought a quart to share with my compadres in Afro-Haitian dance (thank you for the privilege of dancing with you, dancers!) and another quart to make home-made dairy-free ice cream. There's nothing fresher than the farmer's market. There's nothing more local than my kitchen. Try this at home:

2 cups soy creamer
1 cup soy milk
2 cups strawberries
2 tablespoon arrowroot
3/4 cup sugar... See More
1 tablespoon vanilla

(1) mix 1/4 cup soy milk with 2 tbs arrowroot; set aside;
(2) puree 1 cup strawberries with soy creamer, remaining 3/4 cup soy milk, sugar;
(3) heat strawberry mixture until it boils; remove from heat;
(4) add arrowroot and creamer (mixture will noticeably thicken); add vanilla then chill for 2-3 hours
(5) add to your ice cream maker (follow manufacturer directions); fold in remaining strawberries during last minutes of freezing;
(6) eat

Feel free to embellish with sliced strawberries OR chiffonade of mint picked from your window box.
Dara Torres has good muscles
Shaped like a metal cannonball with a handle, the kettlebell, which has been used in Russia for hundreds of years, has recently become popular on the U.S. fitness scene—so popular, in fact, that kettlebells-only gyms have opened across the country.
Carrot white bean soup w/ grilled cheese toast
Lemon garlic spinach with sauteed chickpeas
Saturday at the Dance Complex from 1:30 to 3:00 PM. Off the chain!
Vegan strawberry ice cream under a little mountain of strawberries
Here's the anatomy lesson: Garlic and its relatives in the allium family, (leeks, chives, onions) grows underground, where the bulb begins its journey, soft and onion-like. As the bulb gets harder (and more like the garlic we know), a shoot pokes its way through the ground. Chlorophyll- green like a scallion (maybe even greener), the shoot is long and thin and pliable enough to curl into gorgeous tendrils.

Won't you celebrate with me? May 23, 2010

Poem by Lucile Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between/ starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Didn't make it to the farmer's market this weekend but it was fantastic and full just the same. My sons visited (oh how I adore them!). Spent a hot minute with the hardest working woman in show business. Her name is LISA. Watched my men be boys at the skate park (I alternated between shouting "Hercules, Hercules" and "Oh no, baby are you all right?!" I got in a little dancing (Jean and Nailah: you keep me young, cherie). Picked up White Teeth by Zadie Smith from the library Admired my baby's garden. Dreamed and made plans for the future with her too. And I cooked!

Food highlights: grilled red white and blue potatoes; savored strawberries as big as a child's fist; gobbled down black bean, tomato, roasted red pepper and corn salad and nibbled on oven baked espresso/cinnamon french toast.

As I am sharing poetry with you (rest in peace, dear Lucille) my son, Cyrano, hipped me to a Hudson Valley poet, Saul Williams. Check him out hipsters:

Shell's Strawberry Goodness: wash well in cold water a quart of strawberries, pat dry, put in a pretty handmade ceramic bowl then eat with the stems still on. not entirely necessary but if you like pair w/ Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (deliciosa).

Won't you celebrate with me?

self portrait of mi familia; me, my shorty and the fellas.
rhodies and allium past peak in miss pamela's garden. my grandmother was a master gardener like my wife and mother-in-law. it's funny how we recreate familiar patterns in relationships (friends i'm channeling alice power, my maternal grandmother, through pamela denise waterman:-)
flatblasted the rollerblading casualty with the jammie home healing
red white and blues on the barbey. a grill and potatoes are beautiful thangs.
pamela's garden in the early stages (it's gonna be good).
cyrano at the hallway gallery; my son's graduating from college this week, y'all! buttons burstin!
sole ingredient in Shell's Strawberry Goodness

The First Taste (May 16, 2010)

Blazing blue sky, sun beaming down, slight breeze, people milling all about, Ghetto-Child by the Spinner's playing in my head, the Rodster talking garden stuff. Walking past a stand of neatly stacked greens, our eyes locked. His farmer's hands thrust a package filled to overflowing with tender tendrils of pea shoots towards me. Pea tendril? he offered.

Today was the opening weekend for the SOWA market. Has anyone else been eagerly anticipating the return of the farmer's market? My excitement started building a couple of weeks ago when the Fiddleheads ( appeared in Whole Foods Market. These odd "at-sign"-shaped veggies are only available two weeks out of the year. Nothing says local and now like Fiddleheads. Oh boy! Among all the beautiful handcrafted jewelry (I particularly loved: and DIY stuff I found a gorgeous crusty french baguette from When Pigs Fly bakery, hydroponic tomatoes and pea tendrils.

I plopped one of the tendrils in my mouth. OMG. Memories of shucking peas with my South Carolina grandmother rushed back through my taste buds. The leaves had the mouth feel of watercress but tasted like lovely sweet peas. I forked over my four dollars and farmer man suggested I lightly saute them in olive oil.

Instead I composed a lusty tomato and bread salad with large chunks of Pecorino Romano on a bed of raw tendrils (next time I will saute them). I served it with a pugnacious 2007 Shiraz that Pam said came from among the "good stuff". You hear that Elizabeth? I’m coming to join you, honey I'm still sipping as I write this. Gentle reader, life doesn't get any better, or does it?

I heart summer. I heart farmer's markets. I heart Pamela Waterman and tomato and bread salad. Try this at home:

* 1 tablespoon sherry-wine vinegar
* 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch salt
* 1/4 cup red onions, slivered
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes crusty bread
* 1 pound vine-ripened red tomatoes
* 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, washed well, spun dry, and chopped fine (I used flat parsley)
* 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
* 1 teaspoon of smoky sea salt (I found it in St. Helen's Olive Oil Co. in Napa; it tastes like bacon!)


In a bowl whisk together vinegar, garlic paste, and pepper to taste and whisk in oil until emulsified. Add remaining ingredients and salt to taste and toss to combine well. Let salad stand at room temperature 15 minutes to allow bread to soak up some dressing.

sweet pea tendrils
Tomatoes as the sun goes down 5/16/10
SOWA market
hydroponic tomatoes and tomato and bread salad. 5/16/10
i'se married now! Wedding Day 10/10/04.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Neo-African Americans, the end of suffering and beautiful things

Last week I volunteered for the 11th Roxbury Film Festival where I saw an amazing thought provoking docu-film “The Neo-African Americans” (Check out brother Kobina Aidoo’s work at and spent a hot minute in Dudley Square. I ask you: What could be better than tipping into a dark theater on a swelteringly hot August day for a cool-down and a mind-tickle with films that celebrate people of color?

Beautiful, historic Dudley reminds of the interstices of 125th Street Harlem which I used to pass through daily on my way to and from work. This black urban Mecca teems with life – street vendors, old school players, suited ladies from Freedom Hall prophesizing to AWAKE!, average-working Joes, crack heads and other chemical-dependents, shoppers in search of Aliiyah black velvet paintings, three-card Monty hustlers, bored/tense Five-Ohs, disciples of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and more. Walking through this peculiar madness is a bit like being jettisoned into the twilight zone and Dudley Square rests squarely in this zone. I had no idea!

Tasha, the Hibernian Hall site leader at the fest, sent me to Haley House on a lunch run. The Haley House’s food is fresh and fantastic, the vibe is copasetic and their mission is on-point. Support:

I haven’t needed to don my “don’t-start-none-won’t-be
-none” face” in a long time. Fortunately I was able to pull it out instinctively as I walked though the streets of Dudley Square. I was not in danger, mind you, but the area demands a certain sort of armored alertness. Maybe it was the old whore in the skin-tight, camel-toed hot pants with the I-Dream-of-Jeannie clip on pony tail whose posture exuded ‘Love for Sale’ while she anxiously pulled a pretty man-child behind her? She was searching for something. Maybe it was the Night-of-the-Living Dead couple who seemed so in love and so high while they nodded with ballet-like grace towards one another in defiance of the laws of physics? Or the familiar Tally’s Corner poppas pontificating at the bus stop with their brown-bagged-bottles ( Or was it brother-man cutting his drugs with a razor on the stone chess-board table in the Hibernian hall park in the afternoon sun? He gave me a shout-out. Pink! Pink! I like you in that dress! I did look good y'all. LOL. There was nothing else to say but thank you. The last sad straw was listening to an elder sister sitting in the same park as brother-man shouting “I’m just a N, I’m just a N”. ‘cept she was not saying “N”. I blamed it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol and I don't know what else that seemed to be coursing through her blood stream. Notice a pattern?

I guess this made me ripe for this week’s NY Times/Style of the Times/Modern Love essay in which Laura Munson wrote that she’d committed herself to a non-negotiable understanding to end self-induced suffering. Munson helped me to think about the ways that I habitually suffer. I wonder what would happen if we all committed to the hard work of ending self-induced suffering? What would happen if we fought to, as Munson writes, "exile the voices in our heads that tell us our personal happiness is only as good as our outward success, rooted in things that are often outside our control? What would happen if we all worked to see the insanity of this equation and decided to take responsibility for our own happiness?” (Check out her essay:

What would the world look like indeed? A couple of times this week I tested the waters by refusing to engage in power struggles, making myself vulnerable and believing I deserved a place at “the” table. I wasn't always successful (you can't break lifetime habits in one week!) but I was happier. Not ecstatic, not reborn but more peaceful and grounded. I was reminded of Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” ain't been no crystal stair but I appreciate the struggle and beautiful things like Garden Girl’s farm fresh eggs, purple cherry tomatoes and the good friends God has blessed me to have.