This Just In...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

   I have a small admission to make: I loath the news. I especially refuse to watch television news. The anchors, all stony faced and slathered in a frightening amount of make up, seem to have only one goal and that goal is to make us believe we live in a dangerous, hateful, doomed society of war mongers and philandering political figures who only wish to steal our money and ruin the moral fiber of the communities we live in. My goodness. Depressing.
   News for me exists almost solely in the gossip columns of various websites and, of course, the dining and arts section of the NY Times!

   Not that I don't care about our political climate or the state of the world at large. I certainly keep up on major elections and the like, but as far as my daily diet of information goes, public news simply is not welcome.
   Imagine my surprise then when everyone started talking about Hurricane Irene. Wait- it's hurricane season already?! I thought summer had just begun...
   I checked with Steve (my go to source for all things news related) and indeed, this category 4 beastadone is hurtling its way toward my precious East Coast town with nary a concern for things like houses and favorite backyard trees.
   This kind of storm warning is no novelty for me. The fall of my first year in Buffalo, I was a fresh faced and enthusiastic first year medical student when an unexpected and devastating snow storm tore through us in early October. Trees, still decked out in their colorful fall colors, splintered under the incredible weight of the ice and snow and fell like dominoes. Traffic lights came down in the streets, the fallen trees destroyed cars, crushed hapless pedestrians and created a landscape not unlike something out of a Tim Burton nightmare.
   My sixth floor walk up apartment was immediately plunged into darkness. Peeking around my door I was greeted with fathomless hallways and pitch black stairwells so reminiscent of The Shining that I slammed my door and cowered on the couch for several hours before I could tentatively come up with a plan of escape. An interminable day and a half later, when the authorities finally re-opened the only highway in and out of the city, I packed up my teeny honda, braved the free-for-all intersections, and got the heck out of dodge for the next 5 days.
   I will spare you the memory of my return when, upon opening my apartment door, I realized that in my haste I had forgotten that a fridge full of produce and meat products requires electricity in order to remain in a state of freshness...
   But it wasn't the carnage in my fridge that I remember most about that time. It was how kind everyone was to each other. Buffalo is notorious for drivers recklessly charging fresh red lights like manic Indy 500 racers, and suddenly those same drivers adopted a natural and gentle rhythm through darkened intersections. After the towering trees did their damage, no one was hurt. People all over the city were welcomed into the opened arms and kitchens of the handful of houses and apartments that maintained electricity. I spent a memorable night with a few friends in one such apartment, enjoying the unlikely pairing of yogurt and beer, not to mention the camaraderie.
   All this to say, I have faith that people can come through disaster well. That said, I am thankful for the warning this time and that I have Steve, who faithfully watches the news and is tirelessly preparing our little home for impending torrential rains and gale force winds.

   My first inclination was to buy wine and make Turkey Chili, his was to batten the windows and fill the guest room with bottled water. Thank goodness I have him to remember the essentials and keep me safe!
   Between Steve and I, it should be a windy, rainy weekend spent safely sequestered indoors with good drink and food. Not such a bad pair, the two of us.

Hurricane Irene's Turkey Chili

    Chili is the perfect extreme weather food in my opinion. Steve and I have been enjoying this recipe quite a bit recently, sans hurricane. It is spicy in a complex and not overly hot kind of way, tangy and rich with peppers and lean meat. We serve it over brown rice, but some buttered egg noodles would be scrumptious too.
  • 1 large onion, medium diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 lbs ground turkey meat (I use 94% lean)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  •    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on your preferred spice level
  •   3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • Veggie stock (about 3 cups)
  • 5 bell peppers, a mixture of red and orange, medium diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
For Brown Rice
  • 1 cup short grain brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

   Place all the ingredients for the rice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently for 40-60 minutes until the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork.
   Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion in the olive oil, sprinkled with salt, over medium heat until quite soft and translucent- 5-10 minutes. Add the spices and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
   Add the ground turkey, sprinkle with more salt, increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring often, until meat is browned and cooked through.
   Add the diced tomatoes with their juices and peppers. Stir all this together and add enough stock so that the liquid just barely covers the peppers and meat. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.
   Add the beans, taste and season with more salt as needed. Simmer another 5 minutes.
   As a seasoning guideline, I use approximately 2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, total.
   Serve over freshly cooked brown rice.
   Makes 8-10 servings- perfect for left over lunches!


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