Green and Orange

I have irish ancestry and my beloved, while catholic, hails from the country of the House of Orange ó 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 rosť 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.

[dessert not shown]

Mark wore an orange t-shirt from volunteering at the Festival du nouveau cinťma; I wore a green silk salwar kameez from Bangladesh. (We didnít ask our guests to dress thematically because they arenít 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 itís a bit more complicated than that.

St Patrickís day is a legitimate irish holiday and has been observed in Ireland for over a thousand years. Itís 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 Patrickís day as a show of solidarity with the oppressed. ďEverybodyís irish on St Paddyís dayĒ was a variation on a theme we still see today, recently in the form of ďWe are all Trayvon Martin.Ē

I almost always serve rapini when Iím cooking for guests because itís colourful, nutritious (greens are actually an excellent source of protein) and somewhat bitter, which is a good counterpoint to starch and fat. Most importantly itís 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 donít have to worry about it getting either overdone or cold. Since itís so perfect Iíve 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 itís really, really good and Iíll be making it again.

Zucchini Halva

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 donít need to hover. Just give it a stir when you pass by as youíre 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.

Thatís it. (From Madhur Jaffreyís Eastern Vegetarian Cooking.)

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