A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times featured a story on how Manhattan was named the slimmest county in New York. The news probably didn’t come as a surprise to many. In my high school days in New York City, I was constantly running around town exploring and even now, when I’m in the city visiting my in-laws, I think nothing of walking several miles just to run an errand. There’s just so much to see that the blocks fly by. I won’t even start to get into the other half of it- pressure to be chic and slim, the fashion industry and the media…suffice to say that there are many reasons why Manhttanites take that crown.
No word on how my new home, Monroe County, NY fared in this statewide comparison, but let me present my own findings.
Exhibit A: Buffalo has its famous wings and Chicago is known for pizza. What is Rochester known for in the culinary world? Something called a garbage plate and a friend of ours who is a Rochester native stated singing the praises of this particular delicacy the moment he heard we were considering moving here. An ungodly combination of hamburger, macaroni salad, hash browns, and french fries, all mixed up beneath a meaty sauce, it is, as someone delicately put it, “not the sort of thing you want to eat before a long road trip.” But it well-loved enough to have earned its very own Wikipedia page.
Exhibit B: Rochester loves a street fair, as it turns out. Me, not so much, but Dylan is a fan and so we ventured down to the Corn Hill festival a couple of weeks ago. Among the food vendors was one offering the particularly intriguing “fried Oreo”. I know, you’re simultaneously repulsed and compelled. I’m not one to buy such things, but it just so happens that one fell into my hands (they’re sold in 6-packs, far to many for one person to eat alone) and it was pretty tasty. I won’t be devastated if another fried Oreo never crosses my lips, but I wouldn’t turn one down if it showed up at my desk right now.
In my last post, written not too long after we rolled into town in our 26-foot Penske truck with all of our earthly belongings, we were still in shock from the reality of mortgages, school taxes, day care, utilities, and car payments and we had taken to budget eating at the extreme. I was actually feeling quite svelte from this fear-of-being-destitute diet, but of course that’s when our paychecks for our new jobs started rolling in and things more or less went back to normal. From this experience we will take with us a newfound love of dried beans- so cheap and so easy!- and a temporary aversion to that neon yellow boxed mac and cheese (no more!).
It was with great joy that I started cooking again in the last few weeks, slowly but surely, with particular attention to healthy recipes. So I wish that I had more exciting things to report about this cumin chicken with black beans from Yum Sugar (originally from Real Simple). It was, you know, okay (said with a distinct shoulder shrug). Decidedly underseasoned, it was improved by some liberal salt and peppering after the fact. But even so,the chicken seemed overcooked (possibly my fault, though I thought I followed the directions) and it was just kind of forgettable. In a face-off with a single, solitary fried Oreo, a whole plate of cumin chicken with black beans wouldn’t stand a chance.
Cumin chicken with black beans (serves 4)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained (or use dried ones!)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 1/4 cups cherry tomato halves
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1. Place chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound with a mallet to 1/2-inch thickness. Combine cumin with cayenne pepper and rub over chicken.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken for 4 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board.
3. Return the skillet with pan drippings to medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, and 3 tablespoons water and cook, stirring, 1 or 2 minutes, until ingredients are just heated through.
4. Remove from heat and toss with the scallions, cilantro, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Slice chicken and arrange on top of beans.