Sunday, February 15, 2009

Freelancin' Foodies...

(Hey, everyone: a picture, and, yes, it's orange-y!)

The freelancers life is one of relative feast and famine, and, depending on if you just got a great new assignment or that schmucky client who's owed you a check for six weeks just had his phone disconnected, your fortunes can turn on a dime. We have adapted to the freelance/entrepreneur lifestyle lo these past four years, and though it does have its definite benefits, stability and predictability are not among them. Sometimes a client is waiting for a check from a client, who is waiting for a check from a client - a veritable chain of people breathing down one another's necks - or January just sucked so you've allocated approximately $15.00 for the weekend unless that jerk in the above chain pays you, and, before you know it, you're walking on the famine-y side of the street. I don't mean to overstate this because, all things being equal, my family is blessed beyond measure. Aside from the occasional bill collector or garage break-in, we are targeted by relatively few bloodthirsty juntas. We are safe, with clean water and refrigeration. Believe me, when we hit pay dirt around here, there is much jubilation and we get a little giddy with spending. At this precise moment, though, we've got more moths than money in our wallets so it is time to channel our inner-Depression era grandmothers and "make do." And although my preference is always for fresh vegetables, sometimes you've got to dust that can opener off and pray to St. Francis - hoping that he is indeed the saint of poverty and, if so, that he listens to non-Christians - that you've got some grains (you do!) and frozen vegetables (oh, thank goodness, yes). Then, my friend, you make the tastiest, most nourishing meal you can manage. Tasty and nourishing make poverty want to go harass someone else. We all know this.

The Freelance Special (a.k.a. Indian-style Chickpeas Love You Regardless)

Start some rice, preferably brown basmati.

2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds (brown if you have them)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 or more cloves of garlic, minced

Heat the mustard seeds in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lift the pan above the fire and swirl it around with a lid on it because those suckers pop and the last thing you need when you're feeling all sorry for yourself is a mustard seed lodging into your eye. When they have settled, add the oil. Heat for a minute or so, then add the onions and garlic; sauté together for about five minutes, until softened and golden.

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Or you could just use a bunch of prepared curry powder. The above was what I had on hand.
Also, feel free to add as much cayenne powder as you like but I didn't because of the sensitive taste buds of my kindergartner.

1/2 to 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

Add to the onion mixture and add a tablespoon or so of water if it's seeming dry.

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas or three cups of dried, cooked chickpeas
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can light coconut milk (or, eff it, use full fat)
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate (totally not necessary but adds a pleasing sour flavor and it just happens to be one of those things that's always hanging around in our Indian cuisine-loving bungalow. You can purchase this at a natural foods store or Indian grocery store. Go to the Indian grocery store 'cause it's locally owned and the lady at the counter is friendly but not overbearingly so.)

Add these to the sauté pan. Stir together. It's starting to look and smell good.

1 cup or so frozen corn
1 cup or so frozen peas

Add these to the sauté pan and stir it up. Lower the heat to medium-low (more on the low side) and let it simmer on the stove top, occasionally stirring. When heated through in about five to ten minutes, serve over prepared rice. A few tablespoons of fresh, minced coriander adds a nice touch but what are you doing with fresh herbs if you're trying to act all poor, you bourgeois poseur? Please...

Of course, it goes without saying that you should add whatever rapidly decomposing fresh vegetables you happen to have in your crisper, baby: potatoes (par-boil or steam first), diced broccoli, spinach, kale.

Served here with a little salad and baked sweet potato fries. Yum!

Eat like the Brahmin you are. Figuring out how to rob the currency exchange on the corner can wait.