Thursday, July 25, 2013

Some Great New Recipes Fuel the Immigration Debate

Growing up in the 1950’s in New York, foreign food meant Cantonese, Italian, and occasionally, French or maybe Greek. There weren’t many new immigrants arriving in the USA at that time. Even though we loved to sample new foods, that was all that was available. We looked forward to having it when we did. Later on in the '60's, fulaffel came to New York and so did different Chinese cuisines. The Cubans opened some restaurants, also. Nevertheless, the choices lacked the diversity we have today.

Now living right outside of Chicago, I'm within a half hour ride from restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable from Afghani to Vietnamese. I have to say that it’s a lot more interesting and delicious this way. The influx of peoples to Chicago has made my cooking a lot more varied, also since I’ve learned new ways of cooking from people that we've met  and gotten to know. It' added a richness to our lives that I cherish. 

In Niles Township, Illinois, the participants and volunteers (of which I am one) at the English Language Learners Parent Center got together and contributed recipes from their home countries to make a cookbook. A lot of them look interesting and tasty while others sound really delectable. If you want to buy a copy of A Taste of Niles Township: Recipes from our Global Village, their website is

This week I was excited to try Kuwaiti Curried Chicken. Years ago, I never even knew where Kuwait was on the globe let alone someone who could give me one of their recipes. Although I don’t know what the real thing tastes like, my attempt came out very good. Not finding one of the ingredients (dry limes), I substituted fresh limes. I also did some short cuts.

Preparation time: 30 minutes. It serves six.


                                                            Kuwaiti Curried Chicken

About three pounds of skinned, boneless chicken breasts

1 and 3/4 tsp baharat (allspice) I spent a lot of time searching for baharat until I went into a Middle Eastern store and was told that baharat is allspice. “Oh,” I said. “Why didn’t you say so?”

turmeric, coriander to taste
a dash of curry powder
plain breadcrumbs

2 large onions chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger grated
1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 cup tomato sauce
¼ cup olive oil
2 limes cut in pieces
1 cup frozen okra

Sprinkle the chicken with salt. Let stand.

In a small mixing bowl, mix the baharat (allspice), turmeric, coriander, and curry powder with the bread crumbs. Dip chicken pieces in water then lightly coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Sauté in the olive oil and remove from the pan.

Next cook the onions, garlic, and ginger in the olive oil until transparent. Add the cinammon. After five minutes, add tomato sauce, water, and limes. Bring to a high simmer. Add the chicken pieces and the okra. Reduce heat to low and cook in pot for about an hour.

It’s good served with white rice and salad.

I invite any Congressperson even thinking of voting against the Immigration bill to take a culinary tour of the North Side of Chicago with me. I’m sure he or she would change his (or her) vote. Bon appetit!



Thursday, July 11, 2013


Why am I angry? It’s because we finally saw “A Place At the Table” on DVD. I’ll leave its artistic merits to the film critics while I discuss the message that film makers Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson are conveying in this documentary. It chronicles the rise of hunger in America which has grown exponentially since the 1980’s. At present, approximately 50 million people including 17 million children are food insecure i.e. they don’t know where their next meal is coming from and many a night they go to bed hungry. The consequences of malnutrition for growing children were well enumerated in the film as well as the effects on our future as a nation having a large portion of our population malnourished. The movie has just become even more relevant since the House voted on a Farm Bill that eliminates funding for SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps).

Hunger was addressed and largely conquered in the 1970’s with the initiation of several government programs including Food Stamps (now called SNAP), WIC¸ and free lunch and breakfast in the schools for children from low income families. Since then, these programs have received less and less funding making government programs woefully inadequate. Currently, most Food Stamp allotments provide $3.00 per day per person for food. (I want to remind everyone that people cannot use Food Stamps for soap, toothpaste, clothes detergent, or other nonfood items that people often buy at super markets.) Although I do several economy measures – buying sale items, cutting and using coupons, making a list, cooking vegetarian a couple of nights a week, I would find it impossible to eat on $3.00 per day and I challenge anyone reading this post to try it. If you can, please send in your menus. I’d love to know how it’s done. When I worked as a social worker, most of my clients who received Food Stamps ran out of their monthly allotment in two weeks.

Silverbush’es and Jacobson’s premise is that because of  America’s dwindling social safety net, the job of feeding those who don't have adequate funds to feed themselves has been left to private charities. Many organizations are doing admirable, laudatory jobs. The number of organizations has grown by leaps and bounds to try to meet the need of the hungry, many of whom are employed at low-wage jobs. Nevertheless, it isn’t possible for private charities to meet these needs entirely. This task should return to the purview of the government. As one volunteer in the film said, “Would the Pentagon be left to private charity? Where are our priorities?”

The message of “A Place At the Table” was stressed to me as I volunteered at the monthly Produce Mobile, a joint project of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and  Interfaith Action of Evanston. Evanston was designated as a community with 15% of its population food insecure and the produce mobile began here in February. The few times I have helped I have been amazed how many people are in such dire need of food that they will stand for hours in all kinds of weather to receive a supply of free fruits and vegetables. Many people have come to volunteer and it is an ideal example of private citizens aiding their neighbors but it doesn't solve the whole problem. Maybe it’s time for the Pentagon to hold a bake sale.  

Great job again Interfaith Action/ Greater Chicago Food Depository volunteers. It's great to see so many people making an effort to fill the gaps that our safety net leaves. But is this the whole answer? I certainly don't think so. It's time for us to decide what kind of society we want to be.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July! A Recipe from a Nonbaker

Since the Fourth falls on a Thursday this year, many people are getting Friday off of work giving them a four day weekend. Hooray! Despite -or maybe because of -our high unemployment rate, those still employed are working too many hours and are under incredible degrees of pressure. A four day weekend is certainly called for.

Now that I've been retired, I have practice enjoying leisure. For those constantly at work, it's difficult to change gears. But anyway I've been vegging out watching House Hunters and House Hunters International on HGTV and I recommend it to anyone who doesn't know how else to relax. I especially enjoy the International episodes because they show shots of streets and other scenes as people house hunt in locales I'll probably never visit.

Three questions press on my mind from these shows and I hope someone out there can answer them. Number 1: Why do people love granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances so much that they turn down perfectly nice houses and apartments simply because they don't have these items? I've never had either of them so I don't know what I'm missing or even what they look like up close and personal. Number 2: What do people do in their bathrooms other than the usual that they need so much space in them? I must be missing something. Number 3: Why do people want open floor plans so that they can entertain and cook at the same time? Do they start cooking when their guests arrive? I always thought that was extremely rude. So you tell me.

While about 1% of our population finds itself homeless on any given night in America, others can afford to be as finnicky as Morris the cat. Does it have metal faucets and gold doorknobs? A deal breaker. Popcorn ceilings? Forget it. A ceiling fan in the bedroom? Don't even think about it. Good luck to them and may we eventually celebrate a Fourth in which nobody is homeless.

In the meantime, here's my nonbake recipe for American Flag cake. It doesn't get easier than this.

                                                    American Flag Cake

one pound cake sliced ( Make it easy by buying one)
strawberries sliced

Place the slices of cake on a platter. Cover with cool whip. Place alternating rows of blueberries and strawberries to represent the American Flag. Voila!