31 January 2014

Synonyms or related words

January, noun. The first month of the year.

Synonyms or related words: 

1. Grey. It's my sixth successive January in Amsterdam, and although none of it, as far and wide as my memory can stretch, appealed greatly to the golden glow, this January I shall remember as a Sun-forsaken month. True, there have been five or six days, alone, unaccompanied by one another, to draw the window curtains open and let the daring, crisp, arousing light in, but the hours were still short and impotent, unable to keep it from drowning too early in the evenings. The rest of January stayed hiding behind the blinds, eyes rolled up, veins swollen, overdosed on rain.

2. Unhurried. Days-off are home-bound. They start with the drone of the street sweepers slowly percolating through an open window (to air the room) and diluting the post-sleep quiet the way milk thins out a confident coffee. The voices on the TV often announce blizzards and whiteouts elsewhere. A space heater in the living room is on, its warmth is mellowing. One step away into the unheated and the skin starts to crawl. Coffee, not unlike an IV solution, drips through a filter into the mug. As always, I'll have it uncut by sugar or milk. In a few hours, despite the caffeine, I'll fall asleep. The brain is just too droopy.

3. Quiet. Some days, a mere couple, looked like they were made of rice pudding, comforting and milky. Their softness could absorb every drdrdrdrdr of a drill on the rooftop and each yowl of the neighbor's beagle. It filled up the air and in the evenings cut the eye off from the lit kitchens and living rooms of the house across. On days like this I'm drawn to go over the list of things I'd like to do and goals I need to reach. I think of a light-room photography course I'd like to take this year, and a trip to Paris with my girlfriends and another one to Russia to visit my family and then to NY to see Anthony's, and that I want to find a writing job, and that I want to read more and start writing short stories again, and those ideas I've been nursing for a while now, I should finally pitch them to magazines. And not to forget to renew my passport, and to keep bringing my own lunches to work, and to be more patient and accepting, and to collaborate with my friend Morgane on a jewellery project, and to be better at keeping in touch with people I care about, and, above all, to be brave.

4. Moroccan carrots. Long sunsets the color orange; Bedouins sailing through the nebulous and incandescent Sahara on their haughty camels; coffee cooked in the seething sand; spices, more vibrant than the vision of an oasis; whispers of the fountains in the marble courtyards; the magic of the foreign eyes. Woot woot, doesn't it sound just right for January? 

Moroccan Carrots
Adapted from One Good Dish, by David Tanis
Yield: 4-6 servings

I never cook(ed) carrots for a salad, which is why the recipe caught my eye in the first place. (On a side note: every recipe written by David Tanis is guaranteed to bewitch me, and his latest book, One Good Dish, is a feast on all fronts, eyes, plates, mind, etc.) This one happens to be a common Moroccan dish, as Tanis writes, but for me it's anything but. It's an exciting little salad -- soft, yielding carrots are very much on first name terms with fragrant, toasted spices and zingy ginger, garlic, and lemon juice -- full of go and zest. It's new to me and yet it feels very familiar -- familiar despite being born centuries ago, in a faraway land.

A dish to stay.

1 kg (2 pounds) carrots, peeled
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pressed garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
Large pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup olive oil
60 to 90 g (2 to 3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled (I usually skip it)
A handful of olives
1 small preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp removed and discarded, rind diced (optional, but recommended)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cut the carrots up in half, or in quarters if they are too large. Place them in a large pot of well-salted water, bring to a simmer, and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature.

In a small dry pan and over a medium-low fire toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant, about 1 minute. Coarsely grind the seeds in a spice mill (or a clean coffee grinder) or with a a mortar and pestle.

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl combine the lemon juice with the cumin and coriander seeds, garlic, ginger, preserved lemon (if using), and cayenne. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the carrots in a large bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them slightly. They should be fairly chunky. Dress with the vinaigrette then mix in the olives and parsley. When ready to serve, garnish with the crumbled cheese.