run for it green chili

On an afternoon last month that could have frozen a habanero, I sipped coffee with an old friend. She’s a loving and assiduous mother, and one of the most compassionate peopleI know. She’s one of those friends who makes you miss have friends near who know you like that. One of those friends who makes you wish coffee was free and decaf better-tasting and diamond-clear Winnipeg afternoons 3 hours longer.

One of those friends whose hunger for your company makes you feel like the most interesting person in the world.

It was almost January. The promise of a new year had filled us with hope — however negligible these flips of the calendar are. Gingerly, she placed her own goal onto the pile we’d amassed between our white mugs: she was going to start running. I was instructed not to tell the world; she wanted to do this in small, private steps, until she’d proven to herself that she could.

The other day we spoke again, this time over the phone. It had been a month, and unlike so many other hopeful new runners, she’d stuck with it. She’d joined a new runner’s group, and day after fridgid -30 day, melted those snowy roads with perseverance.

We caught up. We talked about things friends talk about: love, mornings, naps, looking ahead and looking back.  Oh yes, and running. I did my best to respond to her questions. Good shoes are indispensable. Everything’s better in the spring. Pain is normal, but also a red flag. You’re in control of your form, your stride, your attitude. Make sure to get enough protein.

I told her I would dedicate my next recipe to that last one, and here it is.

From a cookbook I picked up the other day (when I was supposed to be buying a textbook), this soup is the perfect chili-soup hybrid. It roils with the taste of crushed coriander and cumin seeds, punctuating this grey season with its four-fold green. Whether you choose the original or a vegetarian modification, this soup delivers protein in at least two delicious forms: with quinoa, beans, and chicken (if you choose) you athletes out there really can’t go wrong.

When friends are too far to measure out afternoons in coffee spoons, soup spoons are a worthy substitute.

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fridge of plenty

Because I want to be useful and not just entertaining, I have a short one for you today. This might be my briefest post yet, but it’s a good one, I promise. Months ago I saw this on Simply Recipes, and I want to pass it on to all of you today: a tip for storing fresh herbs.

Late summer is a time of plenty. Overstock, as it’s called in the business world, has hit the world of food too, where lanky herbs and weighted tomato plants stand like tired giants.

What to do with all of this bounty? Dill, cilantro, parsley — it’s everywhere, and crumpled up in a plastic bag in the fridge it will soon be nowhere.

That’s it. No fancy description. Nothing life changing, except maybe for your mint, parsley and cilantro. Just get yourself a glass with two inches or so of water, pop those herbs in stem down, cover with a plastic bag (it can go around the outside of the glass too, secured easily with a rubber band or just by twisting), poke a few holes in the bag, and set it in your fridge door. Change the water if it gets brown. Seriously, this is like having a pet fish.

It’s a miracle. It really is. I’ll be halfway through a recipe only to discover that pesky little “chopped fresh mint” command right at the bottom. I will NOT waste gas to go to the store for some chopped fresh mint. Ice cream, maybe, but fresh herbs? I confess, I simply will not. Anyway, back to the recipe. I open my fridge only to discover the mint a friend brought over two weeks ago. Yeah right…

Wait a minute, it’s looking as perky as ever. Ah yes, the beauty of the trick-it-into-thinking-it’s-still-growing ploy.

My dinner plans go uninterrupted, and later, I drive to the store for some ice cream.

And because I’m feeling so congenial with my fresh mint and all, I’ve decided to share with you a recipe, and another storing technique, for pesto. This popular green spread (used ’round these parts as a pizza base and a quick pasta sauce) is so easy to make yourself, and keeps well in the freezer.

Mark Bittman came through again with his Basic Pesto recipe, which I doubled and then froze into what look like ice cubes from Outer Space…

…thus constituting what should heretofore be known as the ugliest picture on my blog, are a convenient way to keep fresh pesto around without it developing that darned moldy skin across the top. I’m thinking you could throw one into a pot of hot pasta and roasted veggies, and in less than a minute you’d have a decent dinner ready to go. Or defrost two or three for a quick pizza sauce, topped with raw shrimp, red onions and feta.

You can do the same with homemade broth so that when a recipe calls for 1/2 a cup of broth, you don’t have to turn to that abomination of homecooked stews and soups, the bouillon cube. Presto, pesto!

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