Susan Russo

Forget the Caribbean. Just Give Me Some Black Beans and Rice

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by Susan Russo

blackbeansriceThe other day I received a flyer advertising a romantic Caribbean get-away. It showed a scantily clad, deliriously happy couple lounging on the beach, cocktails in hand. I ripped it in half and tossed in the recycle bin. When you're married to someone whose Twitter handle is @Dermdoc, lying on the beach isn't in your future. Consider this: Last summer when our local Target ran out of sunscreen, they called us.

So the only thing worth going to the Caribbean for would be the food. Caribbean food is a fusion of many cuisines including African, Ameri-Indian, French, and Spanish making, making it deliciously unique. Given its temperate climate, the Caribbean produces an astounding array of exotic fruits such as passionfruit, guava, cherimoyas, and coconuts which feature prominently in both sweet and savory dishes. And their beloved jerk seasoned meats and fresh fish, are often accompanied by two of my favorite foods: plantains and black beans.

Caribbean black beans and rice. If you've never had it, I'm sorry; you've been missing out. I had my first taste about 12 years ago in an eclectic Caribbean restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. I was smitten and still am.

Bulgur's 15 Minutes of Fame

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by Susan Russo

plumber 2Catastrophe struck the other day. My kitchen drain backed up into the bathtub. Unfortunately the last thing I had cooked and washed down the sink was beets. Do you know what a white bathtub filled with red beet juice and bits of floating beet looks like? Let’s just say what follows will NOT be a recipe involving beets.

I’m truly dangerous with power tools (even the Cuisinart is off limits for me), so I called the plumber. The guy who showed up looked like your typical plumber—clean cut, with a baseball hat and sturdy boots. He began snaking the kitchen pipe, and I went into the next room. Minutes later, I could hear emanating from under the kitchen sink: “Nothing you can do cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy, my guy.”Is he singing “My Guy”? “No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy, my gu-y-y-y.” Yup. He sure is. The rendition continued replete with the backup chorus.

Now, I’ve heard of The Singing Detective but not the singing plumber. I got to talking to him, and it turns out he’s more than a singing plumber. I learned that he really wants to write science fiction novels and that plumbing just pays the bills. That’s the thing about L.A. -- so many people here aren’t what they seem. You think the plumber is just the plumber, but he’s an aspiring writer. Or take my cable guy who told me that his real vocation is poker and that he had even appeared on ESPN in a championship poker series. Then there was the shuttle bus driver who animatedly described attending a Donald Trump seminar. He said driving allowed him to pursue his real career goal: real estate.

Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

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by Susan Russo

healthybreadI always crave banana bread -- moist, tender, nut studded slabs with plenty of butter on top. I don't always crave the calories that come with it. That's why I have been experimenting with a creating a healthier, reduced fat banana bread that will keep both tummy and my hips happy. I have succeeded.

This banana bread is low in fat and calories yet high in fiber, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of fats such as butter or oil, I used healthier egg whites, low-fat buttermilk, non-fat yogurt, and orange juice. Instead of just plain white flour, I used protein and fiber-rich oats and whole wheat flour and omega-3-rich flax seed and walnuts.

The cherries are a seasonal surprise that add sweet juiciness to eat bite. Of course, you could substitute other fresh fruit such as apples or mangoes or dried fruit such as raisins or apricots. Oh, and don't worry. It tastes great.

Skillet Boneless Pork Chops with Rosemary Peaches

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by Susan Russo

porkpeachesI have always associated peaches with July and August. That is until a few years ago when I discovered the most succulent peaches I ever tasted -- in September.

Peach season in California is long and abundant; it runs from May to October and peaks from July through September. In general, peaches are picked early to withstand shipping and to have a longer shelf life. The problem is when you take home many of these peaches, they are as hard as a rock (and taste like one too). That's why buying locally grown peaches is a better option when possible.

A couple of years ago at a local farmers' market I discovered Summerset peaches, which peak in September. Like a California sunset, these fruits are a dazzling blend brilliant reds, warm oranges, and golden yellows. In addition to being visually beautiful, they emit a delicate floral aroma and are amazingly juicy and succulent, as if warmed by the sun.

Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade

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by Susan Russo

rosemarylemonadeIt's almost the end of summer, which likely means you're sunburned, overtired, and ready for your kids to go back to school. I'm here to help. Are you ready for some relaxation? Here's what you need to do:

1. Make a batch of this Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade and refrigerate it. Chill a tall glass in the freezer, and fill it with the ginger lemonade.

2. Find a comfy hammock or chaise lounge, preferably in a shady spot. Recline on it while sipping your ginger lemonade.

3. Tell your significant other, your kids, the dog to leave you alone. OK, maybe not the dog.

4. Listen to the hum of bees. Smell the sharp scent of freshly cut grass. Watch the clouds float by. It's a lazy summer day. Make the most of it.

5. If you're still not relaxed, pour yourself a second glass of ginger lemonade and add a shot of vodka or gin. Repeat steps 2-4.

Using Twitter for Recipe Inspiration

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by Susan Russo

bananachiptlebreadWhere do you get recipe ideas? Cooking shows? Food magazines? The Wednesday food section of your newspaper? Blogs? (Um, I hope you nodded "yes" to that last one.) How about Twitter and Facebook?

Last time I had some overripe bananas to use up I could have made my favorite banana, coconut, and Medjool quick bread, but I wanted something savory. Nothing was coming to mind, so I did what any connected food blogger would do: I asked my tweeps.

I tweeted, "Does anybody have any good savory recipes for ripe bananas?" Within minutes I had several responses, but it was Jill of @eatitdrinkit's response that intrigued me. She suggested I make chipotle banana bread. Chipotle chilis in banana bread? Really? Yes, really.

When I asked her for the recipe, she said she didn't have one. The flavor combo just came to her, and before she realized it, she was making a batch of Banana-Chipotle Bread. When she posted it on her blog, she triumphantly exclaimed, "It worked!"

 

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