February 6, 2019

Dear friends,
Besides groceries, my purchases in Florida so far have been one soup bowl and a packet of elastic bands for my unruly hair. On Sunday alone, I talked Tony out of acquiring a 6-foot cardboard Tony Tiger and a curb-alert brown leather sofa. He wanted the sofa badly.

Me: What would you do with it?
Tony: Load it in the truck and take it back to Ohio.
Me: And then what?
Tony: ??

I don’t want to spoil Tony’s fun, but we are living for two months in a 1-room (plus bath), 22-foot travel trailer with a Murphy bed. Last week at the flea market Tony bought an abacus-like back massager, two large loofah sponges, a small lidded pan and a high-backed rattan counter stool. We don’t have a counter. He wanted to fit the stool into the five square feet of floor space that already is junked up with a leather-like ottoman (“for the dog”) and footstool he bought at a second-hand store.

Our entire marriage has been a push-pull between Tony’s wanton urge to buy things and my desire for responsible consumerism, between his tendency to hoard and mine to pare back. And then last week I watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix. Oh, boy.

Marie is author of the best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Her theory is that people should prune their possessions down to the few things that “spark joy”. Hold that chipped paring knife in your hands, one of six in the drawer, and close your eyes. Do you feel joy? If not, ditch it.

Which brings me to the 50-cent yellow bowl I bought Sunday at a flea market. It does not spark joy, but I can’t keep using the same cheap blue and white Corelle dinner ware for my newsletter photos. So I hope you enjoy the photo of this week’s recipe, a coconut chickpea soup with notes of ginger and orange.

The recipe, with minor changes, is from the Florida Citrus Commission. The coconut-ginger broth is so good I plan to use it in other recipes, such as quick bowl dinners (add a grain, protein and wilted greens) and steamed mussels.

While slurping, it’s hard to remember the soup is vegetarian. If you don’t normally cook with vegetable broth, feel free to use chicken broth instead. If the chickpeas aren’t hearty enough for you, toss in a handful of cubed tofu or some shrimp.

The yellow bowl in the photo goes to Goodwill as soon as we return to Akron. I wish I could say the same for the rattan stool.

COCONUT CHICKPEA SOUP

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas
1/2 cup orange juice
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a soup kettle. Add onions, carrots, bell pepper and salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until onion is translucent. Add ginger and garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Stir in coconut milk, broth and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro if desired. Make 6 to 8 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Grilled blue cheese burgers on buttered, toasted buns; shrimp cocktails, bloody Marys and grilled corn; coconut chickpea soup with orange and ginger.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Hamburger patty, cottage cheese and a ton of diced fresh fruit at Pogey’s in Okeechobee, Fla.; ground beef empanada and a media noche (Cuban sandwich on sweet bread) at Tropical Latin Food in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal (for the wi-fi connection, I swear); a chocolate glazed doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts; a piece of black olive, pepperoni and onion pizza and a garlic knot (a fresh dinner roll drenched in chopped garlic and butter) at Joey’s Pizza in Okeechobee; a chicken salad sandwich on a toasted onion bagel from Max’s Bagels in Stuart, Fla.

THE MAILBAG
From Noreen:
I made cioppino, too, just before your newsletter with the recipe came out. Aldi sells (seasonally) a bag of mixed seafood which includes scallops, mussels, shrimp and calamari. With all the seafood ready to go, it made it a quick after-work meal. It was almost as good as the version with the hand-selected seafood.

Dear Noreen:
Good to know. When I’m not near an ocean, I will check it out. I have found a lot of cool products at Aldi, from the Seedtastic bread to the inexpensive six-packs of bone-in chicken thighs to my current crush, snappy-crisp dill gherkins.

From Kris F.:
As a University of Akron college student in the mid-90s, my first “real” employer would make a special-occasion chicken salad to share in our small office. Her chicken salad made me a fan. I asked for the recipe more than once but she always got a little smile and said, “Maybe one day.”

Well, she passed away very suddenly over 20 years ago and I never got the recipe. I have scoured the internet and Googled the ingredients, all to no avail. Her magic recipe: chicken, pineapple tidbits, dates, slivered almonds and rice. My palate was not sophisticated enough to tell if it was Miracle Whip or real mayo, but the combination was heavenly. There were also tiny flecks of brown in the salad — cinnamon? bits of dates?

I’m writing to see if you have ever come across this recipe.

Dear Kris:
The ingredients sounded pretty normal until I got to the rice. I’ve never seen that in chicken salad, although now I want to taste it. Maybe the brown flecks were grated nutmeg? Maybe it was a rice salad recipe to which she added chicken? The recipe is unusual enough to stick in the mind of anyone who has come across it. Can anyone help?

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