A good meal came out of Hurricane Sandy
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I lived near “big water” — either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Salt water runs in my blood.
I can’t remember a year in which one or two hurricanes didn’t blow through. In season, tropical storms and hurricanes were part of my day-to-day life.
When I moved to Ohio, I thought I had traded hurricanes for tornadoes — and so it seemed for 30 years or so. Then, four years ago we in central Ohio experienced the remnants of Hurricane Ike. It raced up the Ohio Valley packing 70 mile per hour sustained winds and entertained us for hours one Sunday afternoon in the fall of 2008.
Some people who were apparently not well acquainted with hurricanes and their wicked ways actually walked down our street, just because they could. The neighborhood lost several mature trees, one of them a venerable oak that had stood sentinel in a park down the street for about 200 years.
I thought of the tail-end of Ike as an unusual event in central Ohio, and up until then it was.
Here we are again, scarcely four years later, still in central Ohio, post Hurricane Sandy. Sandy, a 900 mile wide monster, came calling early for Halloween and left her muddy footprint from the east coast where she came ashore out of the Atlantic Ocean off New York and New Jersey all the way into Indiana and Illinois. She churned up 20 foot high waves in Lake Erie and caused severe flooding in Cleveland on her way up to southern Canada, where she took her sweet time dying.
Sandy is now said to be the largest hurricane ever to form and make landfall. I don’t know how “they” know, but I’m willing to believe it from the size of the soggy cleanup she left behind just in time for Halloween. (Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, is said to be the deadliest and most destructive hurricane ever.)
Are fierce storms becoming more prevalent? Considering the statistics from the past decade, I’m tempted to say yes. Six months ago, I learned the meaning of the word ‘derecho’ as I watched on Doppler radar as a storm formed in Iowa and headed east at 65 miles per hour. It rolled over Columbus like a tidal wave on its way to the east coast, where it kept its intensity until it dissipated over the Atlantic Ocean south of the state of Delaware. I don’t remember another storm like that one.
Weather fascinates me — it has for as long as I can remember. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people who cook reach for the pots and pans when the weather gets nasty enough to make us stay inside. I cooked a pot roast and some really good clam chowder in anticipation of Sandy. A co-worker came up with an Indian version of butternut squash bisque and brought me some. Hers is a stew, and is a meal in a bowl — utterly delicious. Try this and put something different on the table for dinner, hurricane or not.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW, INDIAN STYLE
1 cup yellow split pigeon peas
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/2 cup fresh, frozen or dried shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups vegetable stock or water (enough to cover)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
Rinse the peas twice.
In a large soup pot combine the squash, drained pigeon peas, tomato, coconut, turmeric, cumin and enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer another 10 minutes.
Temper mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and salt as follows: In a small skillet, warm the canola oil until it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds and when they stop popping, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt. Swirl the skillet so the contents cook evenly, and cook another 10 seconds. Then pour the contents of the skillet into the soup.
Spoon a ladleful of soup back into the skillet. When it stops sizzling pour it back into the soup pot. Finish with honey, lime juice and cilantro.
Adjust seasonings to taste.
This is a vegan meal, but you’d swear you were eating meat.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.