Coconut Red Curry with Bok Choy, Sweet Potatoes and Kidney Beans


The Glade Road Growing farm share for September 16 is slated to include: lettuce mix, hakurai salad turnips, bok choy, cilantro, tomatoes, sweet peppers and yellow onions.

Serves 4

Quarter 1 pound of sweet potatoes and then cut in 1/2 slices
Chop 1/2 cup of cilantro
Halve 4 baby bok choy
Chop one yellow onion
Chop the green portion of of one green onion
Quarter 1 lime

In a bowl stir together one can of coconut milk and 1 cup water, 1 TB of Thai red curry paste

In a skillet, saute sweet potatoes until they brighten in color.  Add onions and cook until translucent.
Add bok choy and after about a minute, add 2 cups of cooked kidney beans and the coconut milk/curry mixture. Reduce to simmer and cook for about three minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through.

If you want, you can serve this over cooked brown basmati or conventional brown rice or as is, garnished with cilantro, green onions and a lime wedge.


52 Books in 52 Weeks: David Huddle's The Faulkes Chronicle

Robin McCormack's book challenge continues. (Reports are due every Sunday.)

This week I finished David Huddle's new novel, The Faulkes Chronicle  (Tupelo Press, 290 pp, September 1, 2014, ISBN 978-1936797455). Review to come, but HIGHLY recommended. Huddle has a gentle, quirky sense of humor even when he's telling the story of a family losing their beloved mother to cancer. The story is vivid and compelling.


Sauteed Rapini with Potatoes

Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer for Julia della Croce's Italian Home Cooking (Kyle Books, 2010) via her blog.  My version adds onions and red pepper flakes.

The September 9 farm share from Glade Road Growing is slated to include: broccoli raab (AKA rapini, rabe, cima di rapa or broccoli di rapa, head lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, dill, and yellow onions.

Rapini is in the brassica family, but while broccoli is most closely related to cabbage and cauliflower, this green, leafy, pungent vegetable is more closely related to turnips and Chinese cabbage.  It can be steamed, sauteed, boiled in a soup, made into a pesto or used as a topping for pizza with olives.  It's good combined with white beans, chickpeas, chicken or sausage.

My favorite way to cook it is to steam it briefly to remove some of the bitterness and tenderize the stalks and then to saute it extra virgin olive oil with garlic, chopped onions, red pepper flakes with Yukon gold or red potatoes.

Serves 6

1. Slice 2-3  unpeeled Yukon gold or red potatoes in (1/2 #) into 1/2 inch thick slices.
2.  Peel the skin from the tough lower stalks of the rapini, using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, unless the stems are very slender--then leave unpeeled. Cut the stems crosswise into 1 1/2- to 3-inch lengths.
3.  Chop one small yellow onion.
4.  Smash and peel 3 cloves of garlic
5.  Steam the potatoes and then the rapini separately until they are tender, but not mushy,
6. In a skillet large enough to accommodate all the veggies, coat with extra virgin olive oil and heat until a drop of water added to the skillet beads and sizzles.  Saute onions until translucent with 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes.  Add garlic and cook until softened.  Transfer to a bowl.
7.  Raise the heat to medium-high, re-oil pan, if necessary and add potatoes and sauté until they are golden and crisp all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl or platter.
8.  Re-oil pan and add the rapini and the garlic cloves. Sauté until coated with the olive oil and heated through, about 3 minutes.  If the rapini seems a bit dry, you can add a a few spoons of water.  Add to the potatoes and toss and serve immediate.y.


52 Books in 52 Weeks: Christian Klose's Frack this!

Robin McCormack's book challenge continues.  (Reports are due every Sunday.)

I first interviewed geohazard expert Christian Klose, when some were alleging that fracking had caused Virginia's 2011 earthquake. Klose convincingly argues that far from being "Acts of God," “acts of God”; earthquakes often can be triggered by human actions, such as as mining, water storage, oil and gas drilling, and underground hazardous wastewater disposal. The book is understandable to a layperson and also delves into what we can do to assess and mitigate risks.

I'll be posting more details soon. Recommended, but the title is misleading and seems to capitalize on the recent concerns about a currently controversy over a new methods of method for gas drilling.


Rick Wilson: WV Rages Like It’s 1984

Rick Wilson published the following essay in today's Charleston, Gazette and gave me permission to re-publish it here. In Wilson compares politicians' attacks on the Obama Administration's coal policy to the "two minute hate" propaganda ritual in George Orwell's 1984.  I found this screenshot from the film 1984 (the 1984 release)  at mixed media artist and writer Savannah Schroll Guz's  post.  It turns out she lives in Wierton, WV when she's not in Pittsburgh, and she's working on a graphic novel about the Battle of Blair Mountain.

In addition to the illustration, I've added links to Wilson's post, so that you can further explore some of the ideas he's discussed.  Interestingly, he quotes a West Virginian politician from an article in the Washington Post.  When I went to look it up, the quote was from a story in the arc "Uneven Recovery" in the Post's new section "Story Line", introduced by its editor economics writer Jim Tankersley on July 21.  The section plans to examine complex public policy issues through stories which illuminate their human impact.  It turns out that that another coal story which arrived in my email came from that arc--a review of research on coal and the resource curse.

Wilson (along with Beth Spence) is staff for the American Friends Service Committee West Virginia Economic Justice Project (WVEJ) in Charleston, which "works statewide on issues affecting low income and working families." He also has a blog I've enjoyed for years, The Goat Rope (slang for when "good intentions go bad, messily."


These are difficult times for coal miners in Southern West Virginia and for those whose lives are linked to them. Layoffs and mine closings have become almost routine events in the face of competition as well as changes in regulation. This is a time when coal communities need and deserve serious leadership from the state’s elected officials.

What they've gotten instead is what I like to call a ruling class hissy fit, an art that state leaders have mastered over the last few years. It is basically an all-hands-on-deck command performance where everyone who’s anyone, including those who know better, proceeds to blame all the ills of the state on the president of the United States and his “war on coal.”

The assumption seems to be that everything was peachy here until 2009 and would be again with if the White House had a different occupant and/or the EPA went away.

And that narrative, despite the steady disappearance of coal jobs since the 1950s, seems to be working. The task is probably made just a little easier by the fact that the occupant of that office is a black man with a strange name. It doesn't take much to subtly invoke the demons that dwell below the surface of our “post-racial” society.

The scene, which has become fairly ritualized, reminds me of George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which a regular feature of life in an authoritarian society was the “two minutes hate.” During that time, images of enemies of the state were flashed on TV screens while everyone in the audience was obliged to scream their hatred of the despised villains.

In the words of Orwell’s narrator Winston Smith, “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

State Senate President Jeff Kessler summed it up pretty well in a Washington Post article: “As a state, we have dealt with [the coal downturn] more from a state of denial, that it’s all caused by Obama and EPA, and if we just scream a little harder it will go back to where it was ... And I’m just not sure that is going to happen.”

The thing is, while hissy fits and two minute hates might promote social bonding and make people feel a little bit better for a little while, they don’t really do much to address the situation at hand or the facts we’re eventually going to have to face.

One such fact is that while coal has been and is likely to continue to be a major part of our economy, the post-World War II days when it employed over 120,000 miners are long gone long and aren’t coming back. Another is that coal’s problems wouldn't go away even if Obama and the EPA did. Even if we grant that new regulations on emissions complicate coal’s future, they aren't the biggest factors.

Central Appalachian coal faces competition from cheaper Western and imported coal and cheaper and abundant natural gas. The free market, which many idolize, is doing more to impact coal than any politician or agency or environmental group.

There is currently a glut of coal on the world market, even as demand for the product is declining in places like China, which is expected to close 2,000 of its own mines by 2015. According to [Mark Pervan,] one of many business analysts cited in a recent Bloomberg story in the Daily Mail, markets are “awash with coal in a time of soft demand.” To add insult to injury, some of the coal U.S. energy suppliers are buying is being imported from places like Colombia. Because of competition for rail service, shipping coal from there can be cheaper than rolling it to domestic sources on trains.

Sorry, but I don’t think you can pin all that on the black guy. Or, as Gazette political columnist Phil Kabler recently noted [on August 11], “I think we can agree that decline in demand for coal in China has nothing to do with tough environmental regulations.”

And while some folks here believe that science can and should be denied on the basis of where their money comes from, climate change is going to get harder and harder to ignore. And it could make some of the problems we’re worried about now look pretty small.

At some point, we need to move beyond the hissy fit and two minute hate. One step forward would be having some serious conversations about West Virginia’s economic future. Fortunately, that is starting to happen through efforts like What’s Next, West Virginia?, which is supported by many groups [associated with the West Virginia Center for Civic Life] that are holding conversations all over the state about how we can strengthen our local economy.

We also need political leaders who will advocate for the kinds of policies and transitional assistance to help coal miners and communities get through this rough patch. As my friend Ted Boettner [co-founding Executive Director of the WV Center on Policy and Budget]  put it in a recent [Ken Ward, Jr.'s July 31] Gazette article, we need something like a “GI bill for displaced coal miners.” [Also mentioned  Taylor Kuykendall of the Register-Herald in 2010.]

Jason Bailey of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy argued recently that there is plenty of precedence for the federal government to provide such assistance for workers and communities undergoing major hardships and economic changes. The Appalachian Regional Commission itself was created in the early 1960s to promote development within the region. Other transitional programs include:

It’s one thing to posture, pose and pretend to care about coal miners and their families. It’s something else to push for the policies they need and deserve. So far, alas, that hasn’t been happening.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Chard, Fresh Tomato Sauce and Cheese

The photo is from Giada De Laurentiis's recipe, but I prefer pasta in a shape that will hold the sauce: rotini, orecchiette (ear shaped), farfalle (bow tie), conchiglie (seashell shaped), penne rigate (ridged tubes) all work nicely.  Some brands I've tried include Dellalo and DeBoles.  


The 9/2/14 farm share for Glade Road Growing is slated to include lettuce mix, tomatoes, sweet peppers,
parsley, chard, and garlic. Here's a simple pasta recipe with a fresh tomato sauce.


Serves 4

Wash chard.  Chop stems separately and reserve.  Coarsely chop leaves.

To prepare ingredients for sauce:

  • Finely grate zest of a lemon enough to make 1 lightly packed teaspoon. Cut lemon in half squeeze into a small lidded jar. You will need 1 teaspoon for this recipe.
  • Peel, smash and mince three cloves of fresh garlic.
  • Peel and thinly slice 2 small onions.
  • Chop parsley leaves to make 3 tablespoons.
  • Chop one 1/4 cup of kalamata olives.  You can substitute a drained jar of pickled capers, if you prefer.
  • Seed, devein and chop one fresh serrano pepper. If you don't have a hot pepper, you can add 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Halve five to six  tomatoes (about a pound) and press lightly to get rid of seeds and extra juice. Slice into large chunks.

Bring water to a boil in the a 2 quart pot with a set in steamer.  Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil to the water and the whole wheat pasta.  Bring back to a boil and turn down to medium. Set the steamer in the pot and c ook whole wheat pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking,  in the steamer, first cook the chopped stems and when soft, cook the leaves. Drain pasta into the steamer, set back in pot and cover.  Divide pasta and chard mixture among four bowls.  You can make this more filling by tossing each bowl's contents with 1/2 cup of drained, cooked white beans.  Set aside until the sauce is cooked.

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the hot pepper or red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.   Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they begin to release their juice, 4  minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Stir in olives.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the parsley and swirl the pan to blend them into the sauce. Taste and balance the seasoning with salt and lemon juice if needed.

 Pour sauce over mixture.  Sprinkle with freshly grated Asiago or Pecorino cheese and with pine nuts or walnuts, if desired.  Serve right away.


Blacksburg: Khumariyaan and Boston Boys 9/18

Graphic from the poster via Jim and Robyn Dubinsky of Monkey House Concerts.  


On 18 September, I'm looking forward to
  • a free workshop (but need to reserve general admission ticket here) from 4:00 to 5:30 pm at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theater at the Center for the Arts (Jim, along with Geography Prof the Plaid Avenger and ethno-musicologist Dr. Anne Elise Thomas will moderate the workshop;) and
  • a concert from 8:00 to 11:00 pm at 130 Jackson Street (a $5 benefit)

Co-sponsored for both events are:  Monkey House Concerts and  the Virginia Tech Center for the Arts. Other sponsors include  the Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society, The Artful Lawyer, and WUVT radio/ Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, Inc. (EMCVT). 

For more on Khumariyaan, see the fan page on fb and the write-up at  Center StageKhumariyaan is one of seven ensembles from Morocco, Pakistan and Vietnam that Center Stage is bringing to the US for month-long tours from June-December 2014.

Center Stage is a public-private cultural exchange program between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and additional support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council.)

For more on the Boston Boys, see their webpage.


52 Books in 52 Weeks: 8/31 Beth Macy, Irene McKinney

Robin McCormack's book challenge continues.  (Reports are due every Sunday.)

I don't remember when I first met Beth Macy, maybe when she was giving some type of journalism workshop in Roanoke, while she still wrote for the Roanoke Times.  Her first book, Factory Man,  is out (here's my earlier post) and now that I've read it from cover to cover,  I can tell you it's full of heart and details. Even her unique format for the notes are readable and she includes an index (although her her descriptions are so memorable that I was able to keep the numerous characters straight without it.) Highly recommended.  In the future I'll write a review and perhaps do an interview.

 While I was up to her home town to attend Irene McKinney's funeral, I spent time in the local library and ordered  some of her books used.  My favorite seller was Better World Book Club, which raises money from its sales of donated books for all sorts of literacy projects.  (I think Irene would have liked that.)  I re-read two of them this week.  Still on the list:  Vivid Companion.

I met Irene McKinney, who was the Poet Laureate of West Virginia, in 2006 when she and I both attended Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition's  West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Writers' Tour.  I next saw her at the West Virginia Book Festival in 2010 when she was excited to be starting an MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College.  And then, in less than two years she was gone.

Her poems feature surprising word choices whether she's writing about life in West Virginia or imagining new poems in the voice of Emily Dickenson.

I'm happy  that the Virginia Tech Library has The girl with the stone in her lap (Plainfield, Vt. : North Atlantic Books, 1976 and Unthinkable : selected poems, 1976-2004 (Los Angeles, Calif, Red Hen Press, c2009.)  I'm going to recommend that they also order her posthumous collection, Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet? (BuckhannonWest Virginia Wesleyan College Press, September 1, 2013)