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My baby Dill and Basil have been growing stubbornly and turning into teenagers with an attitude almost over night. Each day they stretch their limbs higher to the sun and grow in strength like sumo wrestlers in training.
The Marjoram, on the other hand, is as pathetic as it’s been. I may need to reach out to You Grow Girl for a professional advice on how to grow herbs in urban conditions. Or maybe, just maybe, the fact that my Marjoram is so dormant is directly related to the fact that I keep my “garden” on our building’s breaker box cabinet?
I can’t be blamed for being creative. Stop throwing mud balls at me! What else was I supposed to do, knowing all well that these guys live off of the sun and water for the most part, aside from loving to hang out in a pool of nutritious and funky moist dirt?
We live in a jungle, an urban jungle, and I mean it quite literally. Our building is planted in the middle of a tropical garden with hummingbirds gossiping all mornings, nutty squirrels fighting over nuts, and monkeys hanging out on the palm trees’ branches. We have coyotes, polar bears and sharks in there, too! You have no idea how much work Cosmo puts into keeping the madness under control. He may not look that, but he’s a lion at heart.
One thing we’re lacking the most is the sun. It just can’t break through the network of greenery above our heads. These are not the conditions to raise my herbs in. Hence, the breaker box on the southern wall by our garage, which is exposed to the sun for the better part of the day.
Gayla Trail, I need you, girl.
Today was NOT a good day. Today was one of those 12 days (one for each month of a year) when common sense and reason both get high on hormones, and start trippin’.
Besotted and betrayed by my own body like that, I sunk into the couch with a laptop in front of me, trying to produce… something. Anything!
Tic-tock. Tic-tock. Hours went by, and failure was evident. Frustration filled me inch by inch, from the tips of my fingers to the split ends of my hair (kidding, no split ends here!), to my eyeballs and kidneys, my spine, and every cell of my body. When it reached its tipping point, an eruption tore the air and sparkling lightning bolts of anger flew up to the roof.
Next, a piercing tearstorm rolled in and washed me away from the couch. Sinister winds threw me, gasping for air, headfirst into the bedroom and onto a pile of pillows.
At that, my Brave Knight Jason, flabbergasted and terrorized by what he had just witnessed, composed himself in an instant, mounted his white horse and galloped into the room, following me, his Princess Insane. He wasted no time. Sir Jason reached deep into the folds of his cape, pulled out a glossy flask and rapidly applied the only antidote he ever knew to work – his loving touch and caressing words. He dropped them gently, like pearls, on my neck, behind my ears, and into my hair. He laid on top of me cradling me with his body, and patiently waited for the potion to work its magic.
It did. Not even five minutes passed when we were both laughing out loud and rolling all over the bed. Another fifteen minutes later, we collected our garments scattered about the floor. An afternoon quickie is the sword that vanquishes my 12 Day Syndrome every time.
How do I segue to food after such a freak out? The only thing that jumps at me is a frikkin’ good Chai Chicken with FREEKEH. It’s a dish I invented when I first started experimenting with dinners for my muse.
Since I don’t know the exact measurements, free-styler that I am, I promise to make every effort to retrace each step of the process.
I bought a package of an organic and free-range chicken with 3 breasts. Wait, the chicken did not have 3 breasts! I bought 3 breasts of chicken, I’m pretty sure not OF the same chicken, that happened to be sealed into one package.
At home, I washed my hands, then the chicken breasts, cut them in half-inch-thick strips, and into a hot sauté pan I tossed them along with a chopped onion. I then washed my hands again, as you do when dealing with raw meat. I let the two cook in a tablespoon of coconut oil, with a generous pinch of salt (or two) and freshly ground black pepper. I tossed the mixture around, making sure all sides of the chicken were getting the same heat treatment, and added about 1 tbsp of curry powder, 1 tsp of garam masala, and dusted it all with nutmeg. Also into the mix went about a tablespoon of finely ground ginger, minced garlic, and a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves.
About 7 minutes into the party, there was no moisture left in the pot, which indicated the chicken was ready for a coconut bath. I emptied a 14 oz. can of coconut milk into the sauté pan, mixed all, brought it to boil and instantly reduced the heat to minimum. 10 – 15 minutes later the dish was ready. Before serving, however, I always taste the food, for it may be lacking another pinch of salt or a kick of another sort. I suggest you do the same. Trust your taste buds!
This dish will go swimmingly well with brown rice, or – as we prefer – with FREEKEH. What is it? It’s an immature wheat grain that is roasted in the process of preparation. It originated in the Arabic countries once upon a time, where it’s known as farîk. I think it’s a phenomenal substitute for rice, as it excels in fiber and protein while low in carbohydrates. Freekeh is also rich in vitamins as well as calcium, iron, potassium and zinc. It’s not rocket science to cook it either. Take a cup of whole grain freekeh and 5 cups of cold water, teaspoon of salt (or not), bring to boil in a pot, and simmer for another 25 minutes, or until soft and chewy.
Pour the curry-coconut milk sauce with strips of chicken over the grain, and voila. As a side dish, I propose Avocado & Grapefruit Salad. Finger-lickin’ good, I tell ya!!
Here’s how I make it:
- I start with a dressing (see below);
- cut 4 ripe avocados in thick strips, put into a bowl with the dressing and gently cover all sections of avocado with it, set on a platter in a circle;
- peel 2 grapefruits like an apple removing all skin and the pith, then cut out just the sections of the fruit and fill the center of the platter with them, over the avocado pieces;
- squeeze the grapefruit juice out of the “core” all over the sections;
- using a spoon sprinkle more dressing all over the salad;
- grind some fresh black pepper all over.
For the dressing I use:
- extra virgin olive oil + lemon juice (2:1 ratio),
- 1 tsp of dijon mustard,
- 1 tbsp of honey,
- good pinch of sea salt,
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper.
Are you following? Now go ahead and whip it together, taste, make any necessary adjustment to your taste, and it’s done. You can chop some chives or scallions, or even cilantro, and also sprinkle it all over for the final touch. Make sure to have the dressing ready before you cut up the avocado. You want to dip the pieces in the dressing quickly, because the lemon prevents avocado from turning brown. Also, I think a pink grapefruit on the green avocado will look outstanding!
Good Night and Good Luck!