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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goan nostalgic for shrimp curry

One year ago today I was in a plane headed across the world for Delhi. I knew little then of the pleasures India had to offer, in spite of frequent visits to buffets on Ellice Avenue. I knew little as I relaxed for 15 hours in the cool aircraft — watching movies, chatting idly, and eating out of tiny geometric platters — of the variety and intensity of experiences awaiting me.

In a tribute to the year anniversary of our honeymoon, I decided to cook up some curry to honor that wild and indelible trip. Though we didn’t visit the south of India, this recipe is inspired by the cuisine of the southern state of Goa (go-ah), known for its seafood. (The regions we visited boast plates of either Mughal-inspired lamb and chicken or the vegetarian dishes reflecting the Hindu reverance for all life.) Goan food is characterized by the addition of creamy coconut milk and fish to traditional curries.

I found the recipe over at Eat Like a Girl — a pretty blog with a wonderfully cheeky name.  Since today was a double-whammy training day, I needed something quick and easy and so used this recipe as a jumping-off point. We had purchased some pre-cooked frozen shrimp (oh the lows I stoop to in the name of a sale!), and so integrating it into this dish was a no-brainer.

Next time I would spend the extra 3 minutes and cook raw shrimp; our little guys tasted a bit like a long-forgotten cocktail ring rescued from the bottom of a freezer. Oh well, chalk it up to cheap post-work out protein.

And thanks to the genius boxes of spice mixtures we found recently at our local Indian grocery store, this little cyclist had no spices to measure or grind when she arrived home starving. Having adapted this recipe to the slow-cooker earlier in the day (not to cook the sauce but simply to keep it warm), all it took to deliver the aromas of India to our palates was tossing the shrimp into the simmering sauce, a pot of my hubby’s perfect every time basmati rice, some fresh cilantro, and a table set with cooling yogurt and sweet chutney.

I was unfortunately too hungry to reflect on it properly then, but thinking about it now, the happy dance of chili, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, caraway and cloves on my tongue will always take me back to that radiant land. A land of scents and tastes and heat unimaginable, a place of passion and devotion, a destination where two young lovers set out on the journey to eat and love (and survive!) in the most important of ways — together.

 

Good thing I didn’t sacrifice him to the Ganges, otherwise who would’ve made me rice?

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