Hmm. What to make? Not wanting to open and close the fridge more than absolutely necessary, I took out short ribs that I had placed in the freezer less than an hour before the blackout hit knowing that they hadn't had time to freeze yet. I drizzled olive oil onto the short ribs, liberally sprinkled them with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, massaged it in and then placed them into a ziplock bag. I added cumin, ancho chili powder, minced garlic, worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, a little more olive oil, freshly chopped Greek oregano from my herb garden and sealed it up to marinate for an hour. When ready, I would cook it on the grill.
I looked in the pantry for inspiration for a side dish and found a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. In my fruit bowl on the dining table I had a red onion and roma tomatoes and with a few snips of cilantro from my herb garden in hand, plus a huge avocado my friend bought over that evening, the makings of a bean salad started to form in my head.
The house lit by candlelight proved to be unusually warm, even with my cold. We sat outside on the patio, our conversation lit by candlelight as we slowly sipped one lovely glass of wine after another. Around us, silence. No TVs blaring, no phones ringing, not even sirens blaring. Just the warm night air to keep us company and the gentle popping of the short ribs as they cooked on the grill. And when the patio motion light suddenly turned on around 11pm that night, bathing our little private party in garish light, we quickly turned it off and smiled as we realized, the dark, the candles, the evening had been perfect just the way it was.
The next morning, feeling so much more recovered from my cold, I walked the block-and-a-half to my corner market to pick up eggs for breakfast. "CASH ONLY" in big black letters greeted me at the entryway. Seems the store's cash registers weren't all back online yet let alone their credit card terminals. I stood in line, fresh tortillas and eggs in hand while all around me, people were sharing the stories of the evening before.
A lady in front of me said her son took a spare generator over and they plugged in an ipod and a portable skillet bringing out neighbors to their yard for a community potluck dinner. Another in line said he and his family also hosted an impromptu BBQ on their block, meeting neighbors for the first time in the five years he'd lived in his home.
Similar stories of little parties springing up everywhere as people gathered to share what they had with others continued all day as I went about my business. It seemed this forced darkness brought neighbors together in a way that I have never seen before.
It was a refreshing break from the normal routine but could I live like that always?
In the dark?
As I sit here typing away on my MacBook Pro, iPod plugged into my stereo system with Bach softly pouring out of my speakers sipping a piping hot quad-shot latte just brewed with my KitchenAid Pro Espresso maker, dinner simmering away in the crackpot, the dryer filled with freshly laundered clothes for the week gently humming in the background, I don't even need to hesitate when I say, "Hell no." But for one warm September evening, finding the bright side of the dark made for a memory that will always warm my soul.
Blackout Bean Salad
1 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 medium avocado, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 kosher salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Combine first seven ingredients in a serving bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar. Pour over bean mixture. Taste, then add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Note: We used the leftover salad in our scrambled egg breakfast burritos the next morning and might I add, D'Lish!
Until next time…