If there are two words that are certain to strike terror into the heart of a pack rat, they are “Spring Cleaning!”
Here it is, the closing day of April, and thanks to some ongoing really lousy weather, I hadn’t even thought of spring cleaning, let alone done anything of the sort.
But, finally, it begins to look and feel a bit springlike in these parts and, unfortunately, notions of organized orderly closets, shelves with neatly aligned books, and empty storage space in the garage have begun to creep into my head.
I do my best to dispel them, pulling out recipe files that need culling and convincing myself that re-organizing and putting a few dozen recipes in proper order will be a good enough spring cleaning job.
I know better. Going through a handful of recipes, I note that there are one or two spices I’m not sure I have, which leads to a trip to the pantry and to the spice shelves. That’s a mistake, because instantly I realize I need to clean out, cull out and give the entire pantry a good spring cleaning.
This is, I know, not a one-day job and if I’m going to paint the kitchen one day soon anyway, that would be the time to do the pantry.
I retreat, and put the recipe files back in the “things I need to organize” section of the hall closet. Perhaps I’ll just take a quick look around the garage, instead of dealing with the pantry. Maybe the garage won’t be as bad as I am thinking it is; we just might be able to do one spring cleaning task with only an afternoon or so of wrangling over what to throw and what to keep.
But no, it’s even worse than I anticipated. I beat a hasty retreat from the garage and try to ignore the panic that hits me when I realize how much “stuff” is lurking out there, defying any human attempt to turn it into a place one could actually park a car.
Forget the garage; there has to be some sort of task I can come up with that will not require weeks of Herculean effort to achieve whatever we mean by “spring cleaning.”
I know what you’re thinking. “How about the closets; doesn’t everyone clean out and organize their closets in the spring?”
Well, my answer to you is, “If you’re a friend, don’t say the words ‘closet’ and ‘clean’ in the same sentence when I’m around.” Remember, I said at the very beginning we’re talking about two incurable pack rats with 27 years of accumulation.
My grandmother always put all her rugs out in the yard to air, waxing and polishing the hardwood floors before she vacuumed and/or beat the rugs and brought them back in.
I wouldn’t mind doing that; it’s probably very satisfying and gives the impression of having really cleaned. But, our floors are covered with wall to wall carpeting (not by my choice, believe me) and sure, I can vacuum them, but it’s not the same thing.
I know there’s plenty of old sand and who knows what else under that carpeting in spite of my super powered, heavy-duty Rainbow vacuum cleaner.
Windows! That’s it; I’ll start on the windows.
Having clear, unspotted, sparkling windows always makes the whole house look like it’s had a face lift, and window washing is one cleaning task I really don’t mind. All I need to do for this job is to gather together the squeegie, cleaner, step ladder, paper and an old towel or two, and I can get started on some soul-satisfying spring cleaning.
Oops; too bad. It just started to rain again, and I did say I was aiming for clean, unspotted
windows. Maybe if I just sit down in my favorite chair with that book I’ve been waiting to start,
I can drive away these misplaced compulsions I’m having about getting started on the dreaded (insert scary music here) “spring cleaning.”
Spring usually means not only spring cleaning, but thoughts of shorts, tank tops, bathing suits and probably eating a bit lighter.
And, as we get out and about more, food preparation time is suddenly curtailed; we need ideas for good dishes we can put together quickly.
This delicious and delicate soup is easy to have on the table in about a half hour, and with some good bread and perhaps a salad, it’s a fine meal to end the day that you spent spring cleaning, or not.
CURRIED ZUCCHINI SOUP
1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (or to your taste)
2 t. olive oil
1 lb. zucchini, rinsed, ends trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 can (15 oz.) chicken broth (or use homemade, if available)
1 can (14 oz.) reduced fat coconut milk
1 T. curry powder
½ t. ground cumin
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
In a 5 qt. saucepan over med. heat, heat the oil until simmering. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft. Add zucchini and 1 cup of the chicken broth and simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 10 min. Transfer mixture to a blender and process until smooth.
Return mixture to pan. Stir in remaining chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder and cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until hot; serve immediately, garnished with minced parsley/cilantro and cheese, if desired.
Note: This is a good recipe to save for those late summer days when zucchini is everywhere.
And because we’re talking about tasty nourishing food we can put together quickly on a spring or summer evening, we have to talk about quesadillas.
I always have some flour tortillas in my refrigerator; in a pinch there are not many things that can’t go in to a quesadilla.
CORN & BLACK BEAN QUESADILLAS
2 flour tortillas (8-inch)
1/3 cup thawed frozen corn
2 t. vegetable oil
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 t. minced garlic
½ t. chili powder
1/3 cup canned black beans
2 t. lime juice
Salt, to taste
2/3 cup Pepper Jack Cheese, or Monterey Jack or cheddar (or cheese of choice)
Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over med.-high heat until hot. Add 1/3 cup corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until kernels begin to brown a bit, 3-5 min. Transfer corn to a bowl.
In same skillet, heat vegetable oil over med. heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 min. Add garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 min. Stir in black beans and cook until heated through, about 1 min. Add the corn back into the skillet mixture and gently press the mixture with a spatula to lightly crush the beans a bit. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the lime juice and season to taste with salt.
Wipe out the skillet with paper towels and put back on med. heat until hot. Place 1 tortilla in skillet and toast until soft and puffed slightly at edges (about 2 min.), flip over and toast on other side until puffed and slightly browned. Slip the tortilla onto a cutting board and repeat procedure with second tortilla.
While second tortilla is cooking, put half the bean mixture on one half of the cooked tortilla, sprinkle with half the cheese, leaving a half inch border around the edge. Fold tortilla in half and press to flatten. Brush generously with vegetable or olive oil, sprinkle very lightly with kosher salt and set aside. Repeat this with the other tortilla when it has cooked.
Place both quesadillas back in skillet, oiled sides down (if you put folded sides in the center, curved edges out, they should both fit in) and cook over med. heat until crisp and well browned, 1-2 min. Brush tops with oil, sprinkle
lightly with salt and flip quesadillas. Cook until second sides are crisp. Transfer quesadillas to cutting board; allow to cool 2-3 min. (to keep cheese and fillings from oozing out when you cut), then cut in half and serve.
Note: This only serves two; it’s easy to double and when each batch of tortillas is cooked, keep them between napkins or towels in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Be creative with fillings; there are many ways to serve up quesadillas.
Margaret Walton can be reached at email@example.com.