I have irish ancestry and my beloved, while catholic, hails from the country of the House of Orange — William of Orange was a dutch protestant and took over the british/irish crown from the catholics, with familiar fallout.
So yesterday we had a green-and-orange dinner party with all green-and-orange food and orangy rosé wine. (No green beer. We had beer and we had food colouring at the ready but it was respectfully declined.) I made zucchini halva for the first time and it was really lovely. Also: garlic rapini; spiced yams; carrot-and-bean salad with sesame-tofu dressing; cabbage and coconut with black mustard seeds (meh, and not very green either); orange squash with green rind left on, cut in chunks and cooked in broth; and for dessert, fruit salad with oranges, dried apricots and green grapes, and the aforementioned zucchini halva.
Mark wore an orange t-shirt from volunteering at the Festival du nouveau cinéma; I wore a green silk salwar kameez from Bangladesh. (We didn’t ask our guests to dress thematically because they aren’t the kind of people who take well to being told what to do.) I had always thought of green and orange as being gang colours, where young men spoiling for a fight would wear the appropriate colours and go somewhere to find someone wearing the opposite colours and set to. But I looked it up and it’s a bit more complicated than that.
St Patrick’s day is a legitimate irish holiday and has been observed in Ireland for over a thousand years. It’s been observed in the US by irish immigrants since the 18th century. But apparently it took over as a general public festivity around the time of the irish potato famine, when starving irish started landing in the US and Canada. Non-irish started celebrating St Patrick’s day as a show of solidarity with the oppressed. “Everybody’s irish on St Paddy’s day” was a variation on a theme we still see today, recently in the form of “We are all Trayvon Martin.”
I almost always serve rapini when I’m cooking for guests because it’s colourful, nutritious (greens are actually an excellent source of protein) and somewhat bitter, which is a good counterpoint to starch and fat. Most importantly it’s hard to mess up and perfect for a multi-dish meal because the rapini are blanched in advance and set aside so I can focus on other things. It gets heated up quickly with garlic at the last minute before serving so I don’t have to worry about it getting either overdone or cold. Since it’s so perfect I’ve already supplied the recipe.
Now for the zucchini halva. You look skeptical. I understand. I was too, but I needed a green dessert and it did look intriguing. Turns out it’s really, really good and I’ll be making it again.
4 baby zucchini (about 1 lb or 500 g)
2 cups of milk
1 pod of cardamom or 1/2 t ground cardamom
2 T oil
6 T sugar
2 T coarsly chopped pistachios
Finely grate the zucchini. Put it in a wide pot with the milk and cardamom. Cook over low heat until the water has almost evaporated. (This takes a long time but you don’t need to hover. Just give it a stir when you pass by as you’re cooking other things.) Stir in the oil and sugar and cook more until it becomes thick and pasty. Turn out into a serving dish and sprinkle with pistachios.
That’s it. (From Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking.)