2013 rolls straight into the last few days of January, and here in New York City, I have to smile looking back on the month.
Already in this “new” year–in these last 29 days–I’ve grasped a handful of euphoric highs, a few embarrassingly low lows, and a whole saga of trial and error in between. As I consider how I’m perched in the same corner of my apartment now as I was at this hour exactly 29 days ago (although this time caffeine-charged and focused; the first time sick as a dog), I have to wonder how much one really can learn or change traveling the span of just a month and never leaving the boundaries of a city. And I have to wonder if the fact that I’ve set foot nowhere but Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan means that I’m slowly falling into the local mindset that if you’re in New York City, there’s really no reason to leave. I have to wonder… am I becoming a little bit of a New Yorker?
During my first few weeks in the city, way back in May, people would often tell me how easy it is to get sucked into the brilliance of this, well–brilliant–city. People I barely knew confessed their stories of wanting to leave the crowds, the noise, the fast pace–but in the end just couldn’t escape the grasp of the Empire City. In those early days I thought these “capturees” seemed a bit wimpy for not just packing up a going if that was their intent, but here I am, in the eight month of what I expected to be a three-month stay, feeling no urge to pick myself up just yet.
There are other ways I’ve become more of a New Yorker, too. I find myself accidentally brushing past people in streets and not turning to apologize (my Midwestern self says sorry, really). Every Tuesday my mailbox boasts a copy of both New York Magazine and The New Yorker. Heck, I even went out for a Saturday boozy brunch. It doesn’t get more real than that.
My strong Midwestern roots will always be something I take deep pride in and remain a big part of who I am, but I realize they’ve become assuaged as my journey continues deeper into this new culture. And I think I have to let it happen, for now, so that I can experience more fully everything I came here to experience (which, I guess, is “life in New York City”).
I don’t have any reasons, I left them all behind. I’m in a New York state of mind.
But I think you, Billy Joel and I would all agree that drops of familiar in a stream of new are always welcome and pretty much essential to our sanity. So amidst my sea of bagels, pizza slices, and frou-frou cupcakes, I make sure I come across the occasional stuffed pepper. A true classic in the entrée repertoire of my childhood, I kicked this batch up a notch with the addition of sautéed poblanos, sriracha, and pepperjack cheese. Peasant roots, Empire flavor–a recipe for success no matter the year, month, city or state of mind.
Poblano Stuffed Peppers
Makes 3 large stuffed peppers
3 large green bell peppers, tops cut off and seeded
Extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 beefsteak tomato, chopped
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
Cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and sriracha to taste
Bring large pot of water to boil. Place the trimmed bell peppers in the pot and par-boil until just tender. Remove from the water and cool. Heat some olive oil in a large pan on medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, and poblano pepper and sauté until tender. Add cooked rice and beans, chopped tomato, 1/2 the can of tomato sauce, 1/2 the cheese and all the spices to the pan and cook just until cheese has melted and ingredients and incorporated evenly. Place the bell peppers in a baking dish and fill with the rice and beans mixture. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese begins to brown and ingredients are heated through, about 25 minutes.