The Love Plant: Risotto with Lemony Artichokes

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I love poems. I always did. Love poems.

Recently I read a poem about a flower. Love flower.

Artichoke is also flower. Love artichoke.

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The Love Plant

written by Anne Sexton

A freak but moist flower
tangles my lungs, knits into my heart,
crawls up my throat
and sucks like octopi on my tongue.
You planted it happily last summer
and I let it take root with my moon-hope,
not knowing it would come to crowd me out,
to explode inside me this March.
All winter trying to diminish it,
I felt it enlarge.
But of course never spoke to you of this,
for my sanity was awful enough,
and I felt compelled to think only of yours.
Now that you have gone for always
why does not the plant shrivel up?
I try to force it away.
I swallow stones.
Three times I swallow slender vials
with crossbones on them.

But it thrives on their liquid solution.
I light matches and put them in my mouth,
and my teeth melt but the greenery hisses on.
I drink blood from my wrists
and the green slips out like a bracelet.
Couldn’t one of my keepers get a lawn mower
and chop it down if I turned inside out for an hour?
This flower, this pulp, the hay stuff
has got me, got me.
Apparently both of us are unkillable.

I am coughing. I am gagging. I feel it enter
the nasal passages, the sinus, lower, upper
and thus to the brain — spurting out of my eyes,
I must find a surgeon who will cut it out,
burn it out as they do sometimes with violent epileptics.
I will dial one quickly before I erupt!

Would you guess at it
if you looked at me swinging down Comm. Ave.
in my long black coat with its fur hood,
and my long pink skirt poking out step by step?
That under the coat, the pink, the bra, the pants,
in the recesses where love knelt
a coughing plant is smothering me?

Perhaps I am becoming unhuman
and should accept its natural order?
Perhaps I am becoming part of the green world
and maybe a rose will just pop out of my mouth?
Oh passerby, let me bite it off and spit it at you
so you can say “How nice!” and nod your thanks
and walk three blocks to your lady love
and she will stick it behind her ear
not knowing it will crawl into her ear, her brain
and drive her mad.

Then she will be like me —
a pink doll with her frantic green stuffing.

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Risotto with Artichokes 

Risotto

Ingredients (serves 4):

400 g rice (I used risotto rice)
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 leek, washed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
finely grated zest of one lemon
80 g grated parmesan
1 l vegetable stock
1 tsp see salt
1 tsp white pepper
a knob of ghee or neutral coconut oil

Directions:

1. In a larger pot heat the ghee or coconut oil over the medium heat. Add leek, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add celeriac, stir and cook for another 3 minutes. Add white pepper and garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute. Then add rice. The rice will now beginn to lightly fry so keep stirring it. After about 1 minute add your first ladle of hot vegetable stock and a good pinch of salt.
2. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice does`t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
3. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy like it should be. Place over the plates and cover with lemony artichokes.

Lemony Artichokes

Ingredients:

8 artichokes
3 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 lemons, their juice
knob of ghee, or coconut oil
5 Tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to your taste
fresh thyme

Optional add:
fresh green peas
finely chopped fresh dill

Directions:

1. Wash the artichoke thoroughly. Hold the artichoke under cold running water. Rinse in between the leaves without pulling on them. Dry the artichoke with a clean towel.
2. Using a large knife, cut off the top 2 cm of the artichoke.Using a knife or pair of kitchen scissors, cut off the hard leaves until you reached the tender and light colored part of artichoke- heart. Cut off the stem flush with the base, remove the white “hair” and half the hearts of artichokes.
3. Salt the artichokes, pour them with 3 Tsp of olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside for 30 min.
4. In the frying pan heat the ghee or coconut oil. Add garlic and bay leaves and fry it just for a 10 sec. Add artichoke hearts, stir everything to combine and fry for another 5 min. Pour 1 dl water, reduce the temperature to medium, add thyme and cook until the water is absorbed. Repeat the process with water so many times until the hearts are softened (I repeated it two times). If you use it, add pealed fava beans to the artichokes in the last minute of cooking. Spread over the creamy risotto.

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Cosmic Parsnips Soup

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No matter how big or small your apartment in Berlin is and how many people you invite, they are all going to squeeze into the kitchen. Kitchen is a locus classicus of Berliner “hanging out at home” or home party culture. Which is great. In this epicenter of Berliner home socialization people get close to each other and on usually only 3 square meters they talk, dance, break dishes, make jokes and share food together. As in my kitchen during last few weeks, where lovely people meet for studying and chanting yoga sutras of Patanjali. But, before we start chanting we share some food which I prepare for us. The whole kitchen -it is not really large- is filled then with cheerful chatter, interesting conversations, gentle smiles and friendly faces. Everyone has a (squeezed) place and even the rhythm of arriving and leaving friends has become recurring choreography. The stove becomes an altar, the food sacrifice, teacher gets the first portion (sanskrit: prāsitra). Ritual par excellence. Few seconds before we start eating everyone gets quiet. Just like before every liturgy. And then, the first sip of this parsnips soup exuded an initial sound trough the whole kitchen. HMMMM HMMMM HMMMM! Wich strongly reminded me of sacred Hindu and Buddhist mantra- OM (analog to declaration Amen). HMMM is a true food mantra. Let’s chant HMMM together!

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 Cosmic Parsnip Soup

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

5 medium sized parsnips, washed, pealed and roughly cut into 2 cm sized cubes
2 medium sized parsley roots, washed, pealed and roughly cut into 2 cm sized cubes
1/2 of celeriac root, washed, pealed and roughly cut into 2 cm sized cubes
1 small leek, washed and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 Tsp maple syrup (or liquid honey)
1 1/2 l vegetable broth (+ more water if necessary)
knob of coconut oil or ghee

For garnish:

freshly grounded pink pepper
walnut oil
fresh cress

Other ideas for garnish:

fresh radish
spring onions
dill
sprouts

Directions:

1. Heat a knob of coconut oil or ghee  in a large stockpot. When melted, add leak and a few pinches of sea salt, stir, and cook until the leak has softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, celeriac, parsnips and parsley roots, stir and  cook for 2 minutes. Next add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Over the medium heat cook for around 15 minutes, add more water if necessary. Do not overcook! Parsnips should be cream white and slightly al dente.
2. Remove  the stockpot from the heat and using a hand blender blend on high until smooth. Add white pepper, maple syrup and more salt if desired.
3. To serve, pour the soup into bowls. Add some freshly grounded pink pepper, few drops of walnut oil and cress. Enjoy hot.

 

 

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Brazilian Moqueca Nikolina’s Style

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I would think twice before I convict Brazilian cuisine as being not laudable, like many New Age yogis, monks, foodies, healthies & Co. would do. Indeed, Brazilian cuisine is based on meet, beans, rice and manioca flour and these ingredients are not exactly the first choice for modern, healthy nourishing habits that avoid meet, carbs and fat. But before we start to roll our eyes when someone offers us deep fried beans pastry (btw. method of frying is invented in Europe, not in America) or we pull a (judgmental) face in front of a pot with feijoada complete, we have to become aware why we rather choose this globalized and over-expensive green kale smoothie with barley powder and spirulina.

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We are rich. We (at least we on the western part of this planet) live in an abundance. We are full. And we have never been hungry. Yes, we know what appetite is, but we don’t have a clue, how it feels when an empty stomach starts to hurt, when you start to hallucinate from hunger and when this same hunger transforms you back into something you have been before- an animal. Italian cultural historians like Piero Camporesi narrate many dark and sad reports about cruel epochs in European history, when hunger destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. But hunger is not only the history that we’ve forgotten, it is also our present: Bangladesh, India, Argentina, Africa…

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Differently than 100-200-300 years ago, when voluptuous bodies were an sign for wealth and hard work formed muscular bodies of poor people, today we have the reversed situation: fat belongs to poor people, who either don’t have a job, or have one that is computer-based and/or bad paid, so they can afford only unhealthy and high-calorie food. (But remember! Hunger doesn’t ask for a vitamin Z. Food is food.) On the other side, rich people fast surrounded by abundance. We badly want to destroy this fat that reminds us about everything we don’t want to be: poor, ugly, greedy, sick… So we practice pilates in the morning, yoga in the evening, we drink water and lemon for breakfast, take some vegan sausage for lunch and skip dinner, if we can. If not, we drink another glas of water, warm, with fresh mint leaves this time. Anorexia, Bulimia and various eating disorders collect their victims who don’t only want to be pretty, pure and healthy (or even immortal), but also a better human. We can call Bahians (a quote) “Fleisschfresser” (which means meet-gluttons) and we feel like better humans than they are. But we are not.

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Yoga teaches us (among other wonderful things) how to practice ahimsa or non-violence in every segment of our lives, wich also includes food. In order to have a peaceful and harmonic communication with our environment, yoga suggests to eat in a way that doesn’t harm us, others and the whole nature. I truly believe that practicing (or at least trying to practice) a non-violence is an answer we should shout out loud. At the same time I can’t ignore a fact that already the old indian Vedas and their scripts, that are much older than yoga-sutras, saw in the process of eating itself something unharmonious, violent, but also something  we can’t skip in order to survive. Like every process that destroys a part of the world, eating (and no matter if we eat plants, animals or people, we have to kill them first) was for Vedas a kind of a metaphysical evil. And this evil was omnipresent for their world understanding, that is different from now where we try to limit the evil only on intentional acts. Because of that, at least for me, a question about non-violent eating is a contradiction in itself. To keep the world order in balance, Vedas invented various rituals. We, on the other hand, developed ourselves far away from any cult, so it became very difficult for us to believe in those kind of rituals. Instead we started to kill unconsciously, to produce massively and we forgot to sacrifice.  The question is: how should look like a modern eating ritual that supports a harmless communication between us and our environment? How can we stop manipulating and developing the power we have over our food?

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My choice for today is this moqueca. (If you can’t go to Brazil, bring Brazil to you). Moqueca is Brazilian stew, slowly cooked in terra cotta or simple skillet. Originally, the recipe is based on fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and coriander. Moqueca is served with cooked rice and farofa (roasted manioc flour combined with some butter). I adapted my recipe to Berlin, winter and vegetarians. Why moqueca? Because it is perfect example of how you can adapt a traditional dish to your modern taste, needs and wishes. For example: Instead of tropical fruits, vegetables and fish I used winter vegetables, mostly roots. As I didn’t have manioc flour I replaced it with wheat brans that bring very similar taste and texture like farofa has. Because I couldn’t find in Berlin bananas for cooking, I added cranberries to the recipe. To boost everything with some more vitamins, I took sunflower and hemp seeds and some fresh sprouts. Moqueca is mixture of Native Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine that CAN be made even in Berlin. It represents an endless transformation power of food from it we can learn a lot! There is no their food and my food. There is only food. And there is only we.

I served this moqueca to my family and friends. We were nourished and satisfied. And I was filled with gratefulness.

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Brazilian moqueca Nikolina’s style

Ingredients (serves 4):

1/2 Hokaido pumpkin, chopped into 2 sm wide cubes
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 2 cm wide cubes
6 carrots (I found carrots with different colors, but use anything you have), chopped into 1,5 cm wide coins
3 onions, chopped into quarters
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small can of coconut milk (250 ml)
3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3 Tsp sunflower seeds
3 Tsp dried cranberries
a knob of coconut fat/ oil
salt and pepper to your taste

Garnish with:

2 Tsp hemp seeds
handful of coriander leaves
handful of fresh sprouts (I used radish sprouts)

Serve with:

400 g cooked whole grain brown rice
avocado slices
wheat brans
and drizzle with lime juice

Directions:

1. Prepare the vegetables. Wash and chop them like described above. Don’t chop the vegetables into too small pieces. In a large and deep skillet heat the knob of ghee or coconut fat/oil. Add garlic and turmeric, cumin and coriander powder. Starr to fry for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables into the skillet and stir to combine with spices. Add 100 ml water,cover the skillet with a lid and cook on the medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Add some more water, if necessary.
2. Remove the lid from the skillet and pour vegetables with coconut milk. Gently stir, add some salt, cranberries and sunflower seeds. Reduce the temperature and cook on the low heat until the vegetables are tender, but still firm when bitten (5 min.).
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover everything with some fresh sprouts, hemp seeds and bunch of coriander leaves. Serve with cooked whole grain brown rice, wheat brans, avocado slices and some lime juice drops.

 

 

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