My favourite meal in 2010 was without a doubt the lunch my husband and I shared in December at a Pizza Express. If you're not from the UK and familiar with this particular restaurant chain, suffice it to say it is a great place to get real pizza. Thin, crisp discs of crust, with delicately flavoured vegetables on top accompanied by a scant scattering of cheese, hastily assembled and grilled while you eat way too many olives and drink lemon scented water.
It was a gift from friends, which made it even more lovely. The waiter seated us at a tiny table for two beside the huge, starkly decorated, real Christmas tree.
We ordered two main dishes, ate half, then swapped plates. It's what we always do. We feasted on beautifully flavoured pizza with artichokes and olives; and a salad with a biting feta-like goat's cheese, strong onions, bland English tomatoes, olives, and plenty of crunchy greens. We finished off with some desserts and coffee. We never order desserts when eating out, so this was a highly anticipated treat.
The best part of the meal was spending quality time together. We had been out to eat on our own a few other times during the year! But this meal was significant in its quality. We talked about the same situations that had been the subject of our conversation during those other meals. But this time, we were filled with hope. There was a lightness and a peace that was lacking before. We spoke of sadness, yet were not dragged down by it. We didn't talk about the future, not yet; but we did discuss in calm detail the devastation that 2010 had brought us, without being crushed by its darkness. In fact, going over those details with such peace somehow brought hope.
And, if you've read as far as this, yay for you because you're arrived at the recipe! We are definitely food lovers in our house. Most of us are, anyway.
I made a black bean stew for tea last night. It was quick and easy. Three small chopped red onions, diced red pepper, jalapeno pepper flakes, ground cumin, eight crushed garlic cloves stirred together in a large pot with a tiny puddle of olive oil. When that had softened, I added a tin of black beans [the small type, haricot bean-sized] and a tin of chopped plum tomatoes. When it began to bubble with heat, I popped in my hand blender and pureed everything. It looked like black refried beans at this point. Next thing was to stir in two more tins of black beans and two more of tomatoes, and add a few chopped carrots and sweet potatoes. A pint of vegetable broth went in last, and I covered the pot and left it to simmer over a very low heat for a couple of hours. [You can add more broth or water if you want a more liquid consistency] Right before serving I threw in a few handfuls of finely chopped fresh coriander [cilantro] and served it up in bowls with grated cheese, avocado, and lime wedges... just for that little bit of extra flavour. Nice with some crunchy corn crisps. I wish I would have taken a photo of this beautiful meal, but it was gone before I knew it thanks to starving children, husband, and friends.
And Mr J? We all waited with bated breath for him to pronounce his verdict as his bowl was placed in front of him. In our heads we were already hearing; "What? I DON'T LIKE THIS!"
"Oh. Black bean soup," he said sweetly. "I love this!"
I don't think we will ever figure him out. And I am okay with that!