a little something extra

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

warming influences

That could be the title for my menu tonight. I had planned to make chili on the weekend, but the timing didn't work out so I punted it to tonight. The chili recipe I use is a loose riff on a dish published in the first cookbook from the Greens restaurant.

I've actually eaten Greens' own food, since the restaurant is located in the same former military complex of buildings where Magic Theatre resides. Magic has hosted the annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival both times I've had the chance to work there. And in terms of food one can get during a ten-minute Actors Equity-mandated break, Greens is the only game in town -- despite being relatively pricey and entirely vegetarian, they're the only place close enough and they have a takeout counter, so everybody winds up there.

So in Fields of Greens, the restaurant's second cookbook but the first I owned, there's a recipe for Warm Black Beans with Chilies and Cilantro. Which is a fancy way of saying, vegetarian black bean chili. Where the recipe calls for cooking black beans from their dried state, I use canned. Where the recipe calls for using the broth resulting from that cooking, I use my own homemade vegetable stock from the freezer or storebought veggie broth. Where the recipe calls for making two different kinds of chili purees, one involving roasting the peppers first, I use dried ground peppers (of the varieties the recipe calls for, at least). It still turns out warming and yummy.

Which it did tonight. Since I got to come straight home after work and traffic was relatively merciful, I was inside my apartment by 6:45 or so. I put the rice on to cook, put the chili together, and by 7:45 I was enjoying a steaming bowl of the two with a glass of medium-bad red wine. (I'm still figuring out the point of diminishing returns on Trader Joe's' continuum of wine pricing. But believe me, the white from this particular label was much worse.) Dessert was ginger snaps, more warming influence if you're prone to follow the categorization of foods proposed by traditional Chinese medicine:


Pork, duck, eggs, clams, crab, millet, barley, wheat, lettuce, celery, broccoli, spinach, tomato, banana, watermelon, asparagus, ice cream, soy sauce


Beef, beef liver, rabbit, sardines, yam, rice, corn, rye, potato, beet, turnip, carrot, lemon, apple


Tuna, turkey, salmon, lamb, venison, chicken, chicken liver, shrimp, trout, oats, cabbage, squash, kale, scallion, celery, ginger, sugar, garlic, pepper

Alas, black beans appear nowhere on the list... but since I'm unlikely to get that influence from venison or chicken liver any time soon, I'll take what I can find.

There's an emotional element to the warming too, though. Eating well helps me feel well cared for, and that's important when I'm as much on my own as I am now. It's connected to happy memories of earlier periods in my life, and it's a powerful influence on my bioemotionalchemistry. (Yes, I made that up.)

So. If you live in a place where autumn actually, you know, happens, think about those warming foods, and think about how to take good care of yourself as the year begins to wane. I recommend it.

(The recipes in Fields of Greens tend to be labor-intensive and cheffish. I also like Greens' second book, Everyday Greens, which purports to be for home cooking. The recipes are certainly simpler.)


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