Friday, April 19, 2013

This week. And tostadas.


On Monday, three people were killed during the Boston Marathon. On Tuesday, my sister texted me to say that her son, Charlie, had taken his first steps all on his own. As a downpour of rain fell from the sky on Wednesday, April 17, our new nephew Griffin was born. 



The storm that swept through Chicago this week brought the rivers to record-high levels, forcing people to evacuate their homes due to flooding. I sat at my desk, scrolling through pictures of familiar spots in surrounding towns, only in these images, there were cars submerged in the flood, rescue workers in boats saving animals, a fish swimming through someone's yard. (Thankfully, our neighborhood and home is safe and dry.)



In between the bombings and the birth and the flood, there was everyday life. I had lunch with coworkers and sang in the car during my commute. I exercised, and avoided laundry, and looked out the window, hoping the flowering tree in my backyard had finally bloomed. It hasn't. It's been stuck mid-bloom, fuzzy bits of green and white poking through tiny buds, stalling. Fighting for life. Searching for sunshine. Outside, the sky is gray and heavy.


On Tuesday evening, with music playing softly in the kitchen, I chopped onion and cilantro and tomato. I mixed black beans with corn, and sliced an avocado, and cut a lime into wedges. And as I went about this calming routine, I wondered if Griffin would be born that day, and I couldn't help but think about the spring we had three years ago. It was a beautiful spring. By early April, the daffodils were in full bloom, flip flops dusted off, and bright buds of green speckled the trees. I remember this spring vividly because it was the spring that Murdo's grandmother died. During those first warm days, while everyone else was opening their windows and venturing outdoors to breathe in the fresh new life, we were visiting the hospital and preparing for the worst. It was impossible to enjoy a beautiful world when such a wonderful woman was leaving it. 



This spring will be remembered for the 2013 Chicago flood, which will also become a story that we tell to Griffin when he's older, about how on the day he was born, it rained and rained and rained so much that the area around his hospital flooded with water while inside, he slept safe and sound and alive. We will remember this spring for the Boston Marathon bombing. And every spring after, on April 17, we will celebrate life.


We go about our days every week, while tragedy and joy and life-changing events throw a bump in the routine, and we stop in our tracks to mourn, or celebrate, or ponder the newly-formed fork in the road. And then we continue on. The waters recede and we dry ourselves off and breathe. We go to work. We eat lunch. We have taco nights. The flowering trees bloom, and cold weather turns to warm and back again. Our days remain the same, but different, because people are dead for reasons unknown to us, and now Charlie is walking and getting into all sorts of trouble, and Griffin is alive and has an entire life ahead of him -- a whole world of happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, confusion, seasons, food, family. And the everyday in between.


Black Bean and Corn Tostadas (inspired by Kate in the Kitchen)
This is more of an explanation of how I made my tostadas on Tuesday night, rather than an actual recipe. Swap out ingredients to your tastes -- maybe some shredded chicken instead of black beans, or refried beans instead of avocado, or sweet potatoes instead of corn, or green pepper instead of radishes, or corn tortillas instead of flour. Maybe you want your cheese melted, or don't want cheese at all, or like your tostadas with lots of crunchy lettuce. Possibilities = endless.

1 14.5-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-oz can of sweet whole kernel corn, drained
A few spoonfuls of cilantro-onion mix (see below)
2-3 radishes, chopped
A few good shakes of Valentina, to taste (or your favorite Mexican hot sauce)
Salt, to taste
4 6-inch flour tortillas (we like El Milagro tortillas)
1 avocado, chopped and smashed
tomato, diced
handful of shredded Chihuahua cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Mix first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and adjust seasonings until it tastes good to you. Place the tortillas on a baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, flipping once, until they are golden brown and crisped to your liking. (My tortillas usually start to bubble in the oven, so I poke a few holes in them and try to flatten with a spatula as much as possible before pulling them out.)

Spread the smashed avocado onto the tortillas. Layer the black bean and corn mixture over the avocado. Top with diced tomato, cheese and more hot sauce.

Makes 4 tostadas.

Cilantro-Onion Mix
I've talked about this mix in a previous blog post, and how I didn't know if I should post it because it's so basic. But it's become crucial to our taco nights. This makes enough for me to mix some in with my black beans, with plenty left for Murdo's beef tacos.

1/2 large white onion
1 bunch of cilantro
1/2 lime

Chop onion very, very finely. So that it's practically translucent mush. Chop cilantro very, very finely. So that it's practically a green paste. Combine the two in a bowl with the juice from 1/2 lime. Stir well.