KEEP IT YELLOW
We have all experienced a tragedy of some sort in our life, accident, illness, death, whether parent or child, sibling or friend, even ourself. Watching someone we love suffer leaves us feeling helpless, lost, our greatest desire wanting to reach out and help, wanting to ease their pain and suffering, change the course of time and events, make it all go away. The first experience I had with illness was at the tender age of 10, tiptoeing into the hospital room where my grandfather would live out his final weeks, this serious, intelligent, awe-inspiring man, wasting away from cancer. The air was heavy with sadness, yet the adults were laughing, joking, offering food as was – and is – the way of our family. Keep it light, make them laugh, ease the suffering for just a few minutes.
My next experience, close up and personal, was in college; my darling, wonderful friend and roommate had been diagnosed with bone cancer when still a girl, yet she made the decision to never give up, never give in. She fought hard, following the rules, taking care of herself, working hard. I remember her telling me that after a long period of recession the cancer was back and had inched its way into her lungs, remember sitting with her while she received chemo; as tired as she was from the treatment, she joked, chattered away, made us laugh, tried to cheer us up, lighten our own burden of sadness and helplessness. She talked about her impending marriage, her college diploma, her plans.
And she survived. She won her battle and now, 25 years later, still married to the same wonderful man, she shows me pictures of her 3 gorgeous children, college age themselves. A truly happy ending.
Through these experiences and the others I have lived – and am living – through, my father’s illness and my brother’s, my father-in-law’s and a friend’s, I have learned that there are so many ways to help, as helpless as we often feel: a kind word to make them smile, a hug to let them know they are loved, a home-baked cake or a weekend visit, the telling of a story as we hold their hand, these are the things that we can offer.
And there are other ways to help in a much larger way, and Barbara, the wonderful foodie behind the blog Winos & Foodies and a cancer survivor herself, created and hosts the Livestrong (LiveSTRONG) Taste of Yellow Event for food bloggers around the globe. As Barbara explains it herself : "LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow is my way of supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation by raising awareness of cancer issues world wide. It is a way for all food and wine bloggers to share their stories. The happy and the sad, the struggles and the triumphs. If you are lucky and have not been touched by cancer you are still welcome to participate." Food bloggers are invited to prepare a dish or drink that contains a yellow food, the color of the Livestrong bracelet, and send the link over to Barbara’s blog by September 13 (tho I think she told me she extended the date, but check with her).
As my heart is torn out by my brother’s illness, I know that life goes on and if all of us chip in, join together, maybe we can make a difference through awareness and support, and we can pray and hope that research goes on, cures can be found, the weight on people’s shoulders can be lightened just a little by our actions. Thank you, Barbara, for your courage and your terrific work. I am proud to participate.
For Barbara’s Taste for Yellow event, I have prepared a complete yet very light meal for the waning days of summer: A mixed vegetable Taboulé served simply with hard-boiled eggs and a luscious Flan aux Mirabelles, an extremely quick, easy recipe for two.
TABOULE for as many or as few as you please
This is a “play it by ear” recipe, never the same twice. The traditional recipe has the dry semolina (couscous grains) soaked in the lemon juice, olive oil and the juice from chopped tomatoes over night. After many years of doing it this way, I decided that soaking the couscous grains in boiling water for 7 minutes and then flavoring the pre-cooked grains was quicker and gave the same delicious results. I also began, over the years, adding more and more vegetables, cheese, whatever I was in the mood for. The couscous is a blank backdrop that welcomes any combination. Here is what I did this time, making enough Taboulé for the 4 of us to eat over two days.
17 oz (500 g) medium-grain semolina for couscous prepared according to the package*
3 – 5 lemons
3 Tbs olive oil
20 – 25 fresh mint leaves, rinsed lightly if necessary, pat dry and chopped
1 yellow onion or the equivalent in small white onions
Ripe, juicy tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 small zucchini
1 jar artichokes in oil, drained
1 small can sweet corn, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hard-boiled eggs, 1 per person or as desired
* using equal amounts water to couscous, bring the water to the boil with salt and either olive oil or butter, stir in the grains, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 5 – 7 minutes, then fluff the grains up with a wooden spoon or fork.
Prepare the semolina grains for couscous according to the package. Place in a large mixing/serving bowl.
Roast, peel and coarsely chop the red pepper. Slice the zucchini, spread the slices on a baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and grill. Chop the grilled zucchini into bite-sized pieces.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes, as many as you like, reserving the juice. Chop the onions and the mint leaves.
Squeeze 3 of the lemons and add to the couscous with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste to see if it is lemony enough, adding more lemon juice until it reaches the flavor level that you like.
Add the prepared red pepper and grilled zucchini, the chopped tomatoes and the juice, the chopped onion, the corn and the artichokes, sliced smaller if you prefer, and the chopped fresh mint leaves. Lightly salt and give a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir until well combined.
I decided to add a small block of feta cheese for the tanginess and chopped it coarsely. Stir it in.
Taste and add more of anything you want: more lemon juice, more chopped mint, more tomatoes or other vegetables as you please. If I add greens, like fresh green beans, I blanch them first until crisp/tender.
Serve with the hard-boiled eggs.
FLAN AUX MIRABELLES for two
This is a wonderful recipe, so quick, easy and delicious, that is just for 2, but can easily be doubled. In the winter, I make this with prunes, first soaking the prunes in warm water for 30 minutes. In the summer, I often make this with fresh, ripe apricots, placing half an apricot (or two halves if small), cut side up, in the center of each ramekin before adding the flan batter. It would also be wonderful using any fresh berry.
1 large egg
1 oz (30 g) flour
1 Tbs + 1 tsp (20 g) sugar
7/8 cup (200 ml) low-fat milk
3 ½ oz (100 g) fruit *
Butter to grease the ramekins
Sugar or cinnamon sugar for the fruit, if desired, and for sprinkling on the flan
For Taste of Yellow, I wanted to use mirabelles, the tiny, sweet yellow plums, and decided to flash cook them with a teaspoon of cinnamon sugar, just lightly caramelizing them. I added a splash of water to the pan and stirred gently for just about a minute before removing them from the heat.
For the flan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter 2 or 3 ramekins (with the addition of fruit and the shallowness of my ramekins, the recipe filled 3 ramekins).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and the sugar until thick and creamy. Add the flour and whisk for a minute or two. It should be thick.
Heat the milk just until warm. Pour the warm milk slowly onto the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Divide the fruit between the individual buttered ramekins (if using prunes, drain and pat the prunes fry first, removing the pits. Pour the flan batter over the fruit.
Bake the flan for 20 minutes. Carefully open the oven and pull out the rack (I placed the ramekins on a baking sheet) and sprinkle the top of each flan with sugar or cinnamon-sugar. Push back into the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges and set in the center.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
The flan are best eaten warm (not hot) or room temperature so they remain creamy.