Very Unhealthy Jicama, Chicken, and Baby Spinach Salad

Healthfulness was bursting out all over in the house last night–occasioned by tightening waistbands and a growing number of clothing items that are not quite as comfortable as they once were.

Right now I can’t think of anything more hateful than the concept of healthy, wholesome food. And yet I had to start back on Weight Watchers yesterday–counting points, making sure I get my vegetables and whole grains and lean meats and dairy–BLLLEEEEHHHH!!!!

And now for a brief digression into our country’s schizophrenic food ideology: Potato chips, McDonald’s, Coke, Twinkies–those are “fun,” “tasty,” “good” foods, but the quality is awful. They’re basically fat, salt, and sugar vehicles, covering tasteless, mass produced, plastic objects whose relation to any living thing has been long since severed. Then we have “healthy” foods–equally mass produced and tasteless, but without the fat and salt to cover up their lack of flavor.

It’s hard, sometimes, to realize that food that’s truly good to begin with will be healthy–vegetables that are fresh and seasonal, meat that hasn’t been factory farmed, and so on. You won’t need to put tons of ranch dressing on local tomatoes in August.

Anyway, despite its healthiness, this salad was actually quite good. FWIW I have no idea if jicamas are in season so disregard above remarks on seasonal tomatoes if they’re not:

Jicama, Chicken, and Baby Spinach Salad (serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side)

Saute in skillet on medium heat in 1 tbsp. olive oil until translucent:
One medium-sized jicama, julienned (or cut like french fries)

Turn heat off. Add and stir:
1 cherry pepper, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste

Rinse and dry spinach, if necessary (if you see any E. coli lurking on the leaves). Dress spinach with 3/4 of the following dressing, mixed briefly in a food processor or blender:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salsa
1 – 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Add reserved 1/4 of dressing to jicama. Add jicama to salad. Add chopped or shredded chicken as desired. Weight Watcher forced me to leave the chicken off. Fred added grated cheddar cheese to his salad. I hated him for that, just briefly.

Gifts

Last night Fred and I went out to dinner with friends. At the end of the dinner, one of them pulled a bag out from under the table and said, “Jami, I wanted to give you this because I thought you would appreciate it. ” Here’s what she handed me:

This cookbook, called “Coastal Cookery,” belonged to my friend’s grandmother. It’s a collection of old, handwritten recipes from the Georgia islands–St. Simons, Sea Island, Jekyll, and Sapeloe. It was first published in 1937. I have to do a little digging to find out more. It doesn’t appear to be a very common book, probably familiar mostly to the coastal residents of the area.

What’s special about this particular book are the notes from my friend’s grandmother. According to my friend, her grandmother had an eighth-grade education but possessed unusual skills in planning and preparing food, from family meals to large formal dinner parties. And she had to, since her husband was a state senator for many years.

Here is one of the grandmother’s cookie recipes, written on the blank page facing the book’s Table of Contents.

My friend tells me that this was one of her favorite recipes growing up, so the grandmother must have made it many times. But the writing here is that of an elderly woman, slightly crooked, very painstaking. What compelled her, I wonder, to write it down at that moment? Did she want to make sure it was preserved? Did she want to make sure someone else would make those cookies for children and grandchildren?

This may be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I’m going to make sure those cookies get made again, and soon.

The Cornbread Redemption

Finally: Blue cornbread that WORKED!!


The recipe came to me from Southern Living via Fred’s Uncle Earl, who took us out to dinner Saturday at the Victoria House in Conyers. All I did was swap blue cornmeal for the yellow.

Preheat oven to 425.

Whisk together:
2 c self-rising cornmeal, or 2 c. cornmeal plus 1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. sugar (I did not believe Earl when he said this did not make the cornbread too sweet, but I was wrong. You can add less or more to taste.)

When oven is preheated, melt in cast iron skillet for 5 minutes or until melted:
1 stick butter

Add one egg to cornmeal mix and stir until just blended.

Add to cornmeal mix and stir until moistened:
2 c. buttermilk

Remove skillet from oven and pour melted butter into batter. Pour batter back into skillet. Bake 25 minutes or until brown.

A Sign?

As I was making some salad dresssing recently, this appeared:


Comforting? Terrifying? You decide.

And now, to answer Hulga’s question about when egg whites are “stiff but not dry”: First, how you find time to make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast on a weekday morning is beyond me, but who am I to judge?

But getting to the point: The egg white should form a peak and hold it, without falling over, when you lift the beater out of it. I advise you to turn the beater to the “off” position before trying that.

Hope that helps!

Singin’ the Blues

My loss yesterday in the Blue Food Contest was difficult, but I have to give it to the winner: A person who can turn garlic blue with no food coloring is no slouch.

Hulga, I’ll have to get back to you on the “stiff but not dry” egg whites later today–at a point where I might be able to extend my remarks into the areas of martinis as well.