Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-1

What would winter be without snow?  (The Bahamas, that’s what.)  Winter with snow is what made Currier and Ives famous, what gives New Englanders character, and what causes some people to regard year-round Maine residents as a bit dotty.  I, for one, was happy to see the snow a couple of weeks ago.  I want at least one weekend when walking down the sidewalk in front of my house resembles McMurdo Station, when everyone exercises the exquisite protocols that dictate who first steps aside, and who passes.  This week’s recipe is what all of us hope to find when we come inside from shoveling,  a dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub,  Lamb Stew with Chick Peas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron.

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Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger

Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger-1

After the complexities of the Blue Zone, we thought some simple pressure-cooker* recipes would make a welcome change of pace.  Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger is the first of 4 or 5 PC posts (vote with your comments!).   If you don’t own a pressure cooker, no worries, all of the recipes work the old-fashioned way; they just take a little longer.  

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce-1

Well, it had to end some day, our last taste of the Bue Zones: Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce.  Contrary to all of the clichés about Californians, in reading Dan Buettner’s description of Seventh Day Adventists in our final Blue Zone, in Loma Linda California, I was put in mind of the genial self-effacing mainstream Mormons of Jonathan Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.  They’re enthusiastic, they volunteer, they care about each other, always willing to pitch in and lend a hand.  In short you’d be happy to have them living on your block.  Except that they’d live way longer than you; actually, they live longer than just about anybody.     

Casado – the Blue Zone lunch

Lunch in the Blue Zone - Casado-1

We’re back on course to the next Blue Zone* – the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica!  Casado – the married man’s lunch is our take on a Nicoyan central meal of the day, protein and salad along with a foundation of black beans and rice seasoned with a particular Costa Rican twist.

The Nicoya Peninisula is a 80-mile long thumb of land that juts into the Pacific from the northwest corner of Costa Rica.  Among a certain type of backpacking tourist the peninsula is famous for its many beaches which ring the coastline.  But the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Penisula does not include the coast – it is the interior, home of large national parks, still quite rural, and with many inhabitants living traditional lifestyles either as independent farmers or as sedentary agricultural workers finding employment on larger farms, and raising corn, beans, and other vegetables (including two forms of taro) in their own family plots.  Until recently the Nicoya Peninsula was relatively isolated, reachable only by ferry until 2003, which saw the opening of the Taiwan Friendship Bridge.

At first glance the Nicoyan diet may not seem that remarkable–rice, beans and tortillas–along with a lot of fruit. But at 60 a Costa Rican man has about twice the chance of reaching 90 as one from the U.S., and this from a country whose medical budget is about 15% of that of the U.S. Nicoyans are some of the healthiest, most long-lived people on the planent. Say hello to Casado – beans and rice with all the fixings.