10 October 2011

Sonogram and Spinach Potato Cakes

First of all, here's the long-awaited sonogram photo.  I'm afraid it's a little blurry, but I promise, even if it wasn't, there's not much to see.  We can distinguish the head and the heart, which is good enough for us.  The slightly grumpy tech, who thought I was odd for wanting my husband in the room, said everything looks good to him and confirmed my estimate for the due date: Valentine's Day.  My belly is still growing, rather quickly, actually, but I feel good.

In exchange for such a valuable item as a sonogram photo, I am going to now subject you to a cooking lesson.  Probably boring, but it was a rather monumental achievement for me, and I feel the need to brag on myself.

I tend to be content to eat the same thing, with slight variations, every day for weeks, but my husband is more inspired by variety.  He doesn't ask for much (since there isn't much to be had), but I try to show some creativity in the kitchen from time to time, rather than just the rice and beans every night that Leah and I used to eat.  Yesterday I had fresh greens, tomatoes and potatoes that I needed to use, and it was Sabbath, so I had all the time in the world to cook.  I did a little web browsing looking for something new to cook, and stumbled across a recipe for "Spinach Potato Cakes with Roasted Tomato Sauce" on the Epicurious website (click here for link).  I just so happened to have all the ingredients, except for the optional cheeses, so I went for it.  I love food blogs, so I should have carefully photographed each step of the process, but I didn't think that far ahead, sadly. 

It sounds so simple in the recipe: four easy (long) steps.  In reality it took me most of about five hours, although I was watching Season 1 of LOST at the same time, so I wasn't in any hurry.

Here are my step-by-step directions for making this recipe in Africa.

- First I washed thoroughly and peeled six or seven potatoes, then chopped them in half and put on to boil.  I washed approximately one pound of greens thoroughly and remove from the stems.  We don't have spinach here, so I used something called "pea greens" which are kind of like ramp, I think.  Also, I didn't have any way to weigh one pound, so I took a half-kilo bag of pasta in one hand (1.1 pounds) and the greens in the other hand.  Close enough.  I washed very, very thoroughly the ripest six or seven tomatoes and cut in half.  I made four pieces of toast in the sandwich maker, then crushed them with the handle of the knife to get one cup of bread crumbs.

- No oven, so I had to "pan roast" the tomatoes with a conservative amount of my very expensive and precious olive oil and salt and pepper.  Meanwhile, I melted two spoonfuls of Blue Band (a kind of margarine that serves for butter here) in a pot and wilted the greens.  When the potatoes, tomatoes and greens had all cooked, I set them all aside to cool.

- I mashed the potatoes with a fork, then, lacking a blender to puree the tomatoes, I mashed those with a fork too.  I chopped up the greens, nearly removing my thumb nail in the process.  Everything was then ready to rock and roll.

- I mixed the greens, an egg, the potatoes, salt and lemon pepper (in lieu of lemon zest and pepper).  It really didn't appear to need bread crumbs, since it was sticking together well, but I was darned if I was going to waste the effort of smashing all that toast.  I used about half, just out of principle, and preserved the rest in an old coffee jar.  Here I ran into my biggest dilemma thus far: what would I use to hold the flour for dredging?  Being Sunday, our housegirl wasn't around to wash dishes for me, and I had, in true Leisha form, used nearly every dish in the kitchen.  I hate washing dishes, so I used the lid for a water pitcher instead of washing a plate or bowl.  Just call me MacGyver. 

- I formed the cakes and began dredging them in flour.  At this point, Fred came home from playing volleyball at the nursing school and eyed with mild alarm the chaos of the kitchen.  He diplomatically inquired how many dishes I had used, and I diverted the question by heating oil and beginning to fry the cakes.  The smell of cooking food had its desired effect of inspiring him to walk to the shop and buy me a soda to drink with dinner.  (This is a very important part of the recipe.)  The first cakes cooked a little faster than I anticipated, and I felt compelled to taste test one (or two) to make sure they weren't spoiled.  They weren't.

I also made some scrambled eggs to add a little protein to our dinner.  At its core, this was a meal comprised of exactly the same ingredients we always eat--eggs, tomatoes, greens, potatoes--but it tasted fantastic.  Between the two of us we ate "4 to 6 servings" of potato cakes.  They were delicious, but it's going to take another Sunday to repeat the experiment because of all that prep work and dishes, which I dutifully left for my housegirl to wash this morning.  (It's how she earns her salary, since the rest of the day she gets to spend on the sofa watching Nigerian movies.  I used to feel guilty, but then I decided not to, since I hate washing dishes and that dislike outweighs guilt every time.)

I also made caramel corn this weekend, which was another big success with my husband and the nursing school students we shared it with.  I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of cooking without a fridge or oven.  Next time I jerry rig a recipe for my kitchen, I'll take some photos.  Promise.

Oh!  In closing, here's another photo for you.  This was the view from our hotel room in Mwanza last week.  One would think I'd have taken a photo of the fabulous view of Lake Victoria from the open rooftop bar, but I never took the camera up to the bar.  I don't like looking like a tourist, taking photos of scenery or, Heaven forbid, animals.  It would take a lot of begging from you all to get me to take a those kind of pictures.  In fact, why don't you just come visit, and you can take the photos yourself?  Then I'll steal them and post them on my blog for everyone else's enjoyment.  We have a spare room (or six), and one of them actually has a bed in it.  Karibu Tanzania!

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