Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kidney Pie

You cannot grow a kidney from a kidney bean.  If you could, things would be a lot easier for Ms. X.  Ms. X is the wife of a friend of a friend.  Ms. X needs a new kidney or she dies.  That’s the deal.

This friend, let’s call him Mr. P has said, okay, take mine. Mr. P offered because he’s been buddies with Ms. X’s husband forever.  He agreed to get tested, and guess what, it was a match, much to the chagrin of Mrs. P, Mr. P’s wife.  Mr. P says, hey, I have two kidneys, I’ll be fine with one.  Mr. P has been called many things for doing this, including the one I insist on, the one Mr. P really doesn’t like -- heroic.  Well, tough, Mr. P -- live with it.  

Think of all the people you know.  How many of them would you offer bits of your own body to?  And yet, if you've lost someone you care about, then there's going to be a hole in you. Maybe it won't show up on an MRI, but it's there.  It's as though someone seized a vital organ without your permission.

So along with Mrs. P, who is praying to all available saints, I hope for some kind of miracle -- someone else will be able to donate a kidney to Ms. X, that she will live and be well and Mr. P will live and be well, both kidneys present and accounted for.  And I hope Ms. F who did not get the miracle she deserved, is dancing somewhere and that all the people who love her (including me) can nurse the hole her loss has created, remember her beauty, be kind to themselves and to each other.  Sometimes that's the only miracle we can get.

Kidney (Bean) Tamale Pie 


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups packed greens -- kale or Swiss chard, collards or spinach or a combination, chopped

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups kidney beans, cooked and cooled)

2 teaspoons lime juice (about 1/2 lime)

1/4 cup cilantro

sea salt to taste


1 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup plain yogurt

1 egg

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup minced scallions

1/2 cup grated cheddar (optional)

Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan or ovenproof skillet.  Preheat oven to 350. 

Prepare filling:

In skillet (ovenproof or otherwise), heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion and garlic and saute until vegetables soften, about five minutes.  

Add the greens and stir until just wilted.  With spinach, you’ll be done in a minute.  Your sturdier greens, like kale or collards, will take up to five.

Stir in chili powder, coriander and cumin.  Add kidney beans, tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir and heat through, about five minutes.

Add lime juice and cilantro and salt to taste.  Remove from heat.  If your day has become too harried, what with medical procedures or personal grief or whathave you, you can stop and this point.   Turn off the oven, pour yourself a nice glass of wine. Eat kidney bean and green filling as is, or over rice.  Or let the filling cool and refrigerate until you want tamale pie.  But if you’re ready, it’s time for


In a medium bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, add baking soda to yogurt and stir.  

Give it a minute to froth.  Then beat in egg and stir in melted butter.  Add liquid ingredients to the cornmeal mixture.  Stir gently until it forms a thick batter.  Stir in scallions and cilantro.  

Take your lovely bean and green filling and place in prepared greased baking pan.  Top with grated cheese, if using.  Spread topping over all.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.  

Serves 6.

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