The Taxman Cometh & Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde

It doesn’t rain but it pours. If you live in northern New England and it’s April, that’s both literally and figuratively. As if April wasn’t bad enough already with mud season, someone had to throw in Tax Day. Sure, I knew it was coming but I was too busy skiing to start in March let alone February.

With a week to go, I’m scrambling to get through all the forms. I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. It’s not the difficulty; I can add and subtract. (Heck, I can multiple and divide too.) It’s the complexity, the arcane language and wading through all those forms. Before you go and recommend one, I already use one of those software tax packages. Except for the one W2, the pile of 1099s and receipts from the dentist, home office expense and the like, I’m not shuffling paper. The majority of the slogging is from one screen to another. It may be automated but the whole thing still feels like a quagmire. Come to think of it, all those forms and receipts are still a lot of paper.

That’s what I get for being part of the gig economy. Gigs – sounds like fun doesn’t it. Not only is it a cute little word but it reminds me of musicians. While it definitely has its benefits, it’s not always as cool as it sounds. The gig economy is all about contract work, part-time and temporary jobs. Musicians, writers and artists have been doing it forever.

Now, everybody is getting in on the action. Corporations, large and small, are hiring gig workers to fill gaps and manage the ebbs and flow of business. Some gigs are fulltime and last for months. They’re the consultants, software developers and graphic designers who come on board for big projects. I’m guessing H&R Block has been hiring gig workers like crazy for the past month or so.

Not all gigs are nine to five. Many are for a few hours a week – the teacher who tutors your reluctant fourth grader. Some giggers start young – the middle schooler who walks your dog. Some are seasonal. Think of the guy who cuts your grass every summer. Others, like your Uber driver, start and finish a gig in less than an hour.

Long or short, it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, the gig is up and it’s time to find a new one.

I love gig work because it opens the door to all sorts of interesting, new people, experiences and places. From the everyday to special occasions, I’m delighted to cover it. I’ve written about celebrations and tragedies as well as history, religion, traditions and the lack-of. Every story is a challenge. Every story is an adventure.

Gig work isn’t perfect. You’re generally on your own for health insurance, retirement savings and whatever other benefits a company might offer. Forget about paid vacation time, sick days or holidays. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Then, when it comes to filing your taxes, gone are the days of a single W2. With multiple employers, you have a pile of W2s and/or 1099s plus a bunch of self-employment driven deductions. As I said, it’s not difficult; it just takes a while, like forever.

Happy tax season and bon appétit!

Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Whether you get a refund or need to write a check, this hearty stew will get you through all the shuffling and calculations. If you need to write a really big check, skip the chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
About 4 cups chicken stock or broth
Sweet Potato Polenta or plain polenta cooked according to package directions
Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde (recipes follows)

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.

Drain and rinse the beans, put them in a pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until tender, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan, drain and let cool. When it is cool enough to handle, finely chop the sausage. Reserve.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the casserole, skin side down and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the casserole and reserve.

Put the onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine, espresso, sausage, beans and remaining bay leaf.

Add the chicken and wiggle the pieces about half way down into the beans, add enough stock to cover the beans plus about an inch. Bring everything to a simmer and transfer to the oven.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the casserole. Discard the skin and bones and cut or tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir the chicken back into the beans.

The stew is best if be covered and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the stew on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven until bubbling.

Serve the stew with a spoonful of Sweet Potato Polenta and a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon or to taste roughly chopped jalapeno
About 2 cups cilantro leaves
1/4 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Put the lime zest and juice, garlic, scallion and jalapeno in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the cilantro and olive oil, season with salt and process until finely chopped and well combined.

Let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pound Cake
Two Years Ago – Lavender Scones
Three Years Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Six Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Eight Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Nine Years Ago – Chicken Provençal

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How are you coping with tax season? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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Taking a Tax Holiday & Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette

You’ve probably figured it out by now. The harrowing reckoning of April 15th, tax day, has been postponed. Well, postponed until today. So, if you’re reading this and haven’t filed, stop immediately and get to work. The time is now if you are a last minute filer.

For years, I was among the legions of last minuters. I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to get motivated. First, it takes a bit of effort to pull everything together. Locating old check stubs. Combing through credit card bills. Searching for thank you letters from charitable organizations. None of it is difficult work; it’s just boring and time consuming.

It doesn’t get any better once you find everything. Mind you, I’m not one of those people who find pleasure in filling out forms. In case you are wondering, yes, I use one of those software packages that guides me through it. It doesn’t matter, I always worry that I will sneeze, inadvertently click continue and miss an important question. If not that, then I’m sure I’ll somehow misinterpret something. Every year, after countless reviews, I take a deep breath and hit send. Luckily, it’s been so far so good.

Now, I admit it, I was tempted by the extended deadline. I could have, would have gladly left it for the final weekend. Heck, I’ve been known to take tax day off. No, not because I wanted to but because I had to! Before I filed electronically, I knew which post offices closed at six and which ones stayed open until midnight. That said; I hit send surprisingly early this year. In fact, my return jumped on the cyber highway and winged its way to Washington two whole weeks ago. I’m not sure but I think that may be a record for me.

Record or no, there is a payoff. Thanks to direct deposit, my refund is already in the bank. How about that for motivation? So, if you are frantically filling out forms today, or did so over the weekend, consider this … twelve months from now, instead of pulling your hair out, shuffling through a bunch of papers and filling in forms, you could be celebrating with your refund.

Now I know that each and every financial advisor out there is going to yell and shout and tell you the last thing you should do is blow your refund on a vacation or a party. They will offer much more practical advice. They will suggest you invest in a 529 college fund for your kids or grandkids, put it in your IRA or start an emergency fund. Responsible people don’t think you should fly to Bermuda or buy diamond earrings, especially if the cost of the trip or jewelry is more than your refund.

Alright then, how about a compromise? Forget Bermuda, drive to the coast for a walk on a sunny beach and have lunch at a favorite clam shack. I spent my first ten summers on the Cape and I make a habit of having fried clams once a year. Instead of diamonds, visit a craft shop, the one with the amazing local artists. Treat yourself to a truly special pair of earrings, a gorgeous ceramic bowl or a fabulous scarf. Indulge in the kind of treasure that you will be proud to own not for a day or two but a lifetime.

As for me? What did I do with my refund? Okay, I confess. I went to Florida. But heck, I’m not a financial advisor. I don’t even play one on television.

Bon appétit!

Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
If the calendar says spring, then it’s time for asparagus, lots of asparagus. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2-3 pounds asparagus, trimmed
6-8 ounces arugula
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until tender crisp and bright green, 2-3 minutes. Drain and immediately drop the asparagus into the ice water to cool. Drain again and pat dry.

Put the arugula and scallions in a large bowl, drizzle sparingly with vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat.

To serve: arrange the arugula on a large serving platter or individual plates and top with asparagus. Drizzle the asparagus with a little vinaigrette, garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon or to taste honey
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the shallot, garlic and thyme, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Using a rubber spatula to press on the solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Slowly add and the olive oil and continue whisking until thick and well combined.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Homemade Personal Pizzas
Two Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Three Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Four Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Six Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Eight Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & Asparagus

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you spend your tax refund this year? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017