Monday, October 17, 2011

Tex-Mex for Lutherans from Lake Woebegone

Friends and relations who are in the know about such things, point out that the following recipe has no ground beef, and no cream of mushroom soup, so it cannot possibly represent a true Lutheran Hot Dish Experience.  And they are right, although now I am thinking of trying to invent enchiladas that use cream of mushroom soup in a way that isn't horrifying, but I can't really call the following Tex-mex, and it sure as heck isn't Mexican.  It is derived distantly from a cheese enchilada recipe Mom picked up in Sitka.  It's a pretty distant derivation.

Black Bean, Spinach, and Cheese Enchiladas

2 cups or so cooked brown rice (or 3/4s cup brown rice and 2 cups boiling water combined on a medium heat burner for half an, silly, use a sauce pan, don't just pour the water and the rice on the heating element)
1 can black beans
1 packet onion soup mix
1 cup sour cream
1 can diced green chiles
2/3s of a 7 oz brick of frozen chopped spinach
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (low fat if you want)
1 cup or so shredded cheese, mexican blend or cheddar or whatever you like
1 package of whole wheat tortillas
1 of the larger cans of enchilada sauce
Additional cheese for the top

NOTE: If one wants to substitute say roasted zucchini, more chopped onions, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, or bell peppers for some of the rice, I think that's just dandy.  Or some chicken. Or all of the above.  I  just didn't happen to have any of those things on hand that I wanted to use for this purpose.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine everything but the tortillas, the enchilada sauce, and the cheese that you'll be sprinkling on top of the enchiladas in a large bowl. This shall hereafter be referred to as the filling.

Spoon a couple or three tablespoons of filling into each tortilla, roll it and stick it in a large baking dish.  I use my 9X13 pyrex dish and that seems just right.

When you've used all the tortillas that will fit, spread any remaining filling over the top, before pouring the enchilada sauce over the whole mess. Top with cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes, increasing the heat to 400 around the 20 minute mark.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On Round Bread

This is the One Bagel.
As you can see from the picture, I made bagels today*. Or rather I made them yesterday, and baked them today. I have yet to find acceptable bagels in Seattle. They're probably around, I just haven't found them yet. Anyway, in my quest for adequately toothsome round bread, I decided to try my hand at making my own. I used this recipe for bagels. I did not plunk for barley malt syrup and that would make a difference in flavor, but the texture is impeccable. Nice and chewy, but not too dense.

*I was going to take a picture of bagels nicely arranged on a plate, and placed on a ledge in the entryway.  Very artistic with the cool grey light of a Seattle afternoon reflecting off flaking paint, wrought iron, and tenacious greenery.  Unfortunately, my camera's light sensor has died the true death, so instead you get my Frodo impersonation.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Wind from the Sea, Andrew Wyeth
Little known fact -- my favorite twentieth century painter is Andrew Wyeth.  The exhibition of the Helga paintings at the Smithsonian is the first time art on walls came close to capturing my attention the way the dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum could. As an adult, looking with the eyes of someone who aspires to artistry, I am humbled and enlightened by his work in one of the most difficult of the painter's mediums. If I could paint with a tenth, a fiftieth even of his mastery, I would be a happy woman.

However I may envy his technical mastery, I would not hunger after his work if he were no more than a bravura technician. The starkness of the world Wyeth paints, alleviated with the touches of civilization, but never banished reminds me of Alaska.  His subjects -- farmers, fishermen, interior and exterior landscapes -- are illuminated by the fineness of his attention.  Stray threads in old lace curtains and decaying work boots with a bit of wear left in them are given equal dignity with fallow fields and hungry sea.  His depictions are loving, finding beauty in the deeply mundane.  The wind blowing nets hung out to dry is given spiritual weight in Pentecost. So I return to him again and again, seeking renewal of my own vision.

T.S. Eliot in Little Gidding gets at this sense of what I want to say about Wyeth's paintings in far fewer words:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning
I am quoting and offering artwork, because trying to talk about moving and making a new life in a place that is not Alaska is something that defies words for me.  I miss the sense of home that illuminates Wyeth's paintings, and while waking up in Seattle no longer causes me to feel like I've just lost everything I love, I still do not feel like I belong. Not really.  I'm making friends.  I have course work I find meaningful.  But I do not have the knowledge of place that tells me the names of the plants I see when I walk in the woods, or where to buy kaffir lime leaves (not that I need kaffir lime leaves right now, but I can easily think of three or four places to buy them in Anchorage). 

But why should I expect Seattle to feel as comfortable as Anchorage? It took me the better part of twenty years to grow into that local knowledge.  But I don't want to wait.  I want to feel at home now or at least not be wedded to google maps for finding anything outside of the Hill and a small section of downtown.

Meanwhile, I have a pot of daal simmering on the stove, and bagels rising slowly in the fridge.  I am trying to bring the kind of attention to my surroundings that Wyeth brought to the environs of the farm he lovingly painted for most of the twentieth century. It's not a bad life, but I miss the smell of the birch forests in September and the sharp feel of the air just before it snows.