Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts and Lance Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Austin to run a half marathon. I thought training for a February race would be a fun diversion to cycling, yet not interfere with spring training, and keep me in shape throughout the winter. Upon reflection, I can't really say the training was fun. While the long runs were more enjoyable than those I have done in the past because I had Sallie for company, the weather conditions really made it tough. Between snow, ice, wind and really cold temps, it made for some not so pleasant training days. Because of the weather, I also didn't get out for shorter runs as much as I intended, and I only had planned for 2 per week. I finally succumbed to the treadmill in a panic during the last couple of weeks before the race. In terms of keeping me in shape, it turns out that I gained 4 1/2 pounds in the process. I was a bit surprised when I hopped on the scale recently since not only was I training for this race, but still getting on my bike trainer consistently. The race itself was, however, fun. I felt great, had the best time I could've expected, and broke two hours which was my main goal. And, I also got to check out Austin, which is a pretty funky little city.

The day after the race, we went to Lance Armstrong's bike shop, Mellow Johnny's. It's a great shop. We rented some Trek Madones and went for spin around Austin. After riding around in circles for a while and almost getting on the highway, we finally found our way onto a nice bike route. When we got back there was a t.v. camera set up in the shop, and while we were shopping for t-shirts, the woman who was with the cameraman asked if she could interview us for the news. She wouldn't tell us about what because she wanted our answers to be spontaneous.

I should take a moment here to point out that I had just finished a ride, taken my helmet off (think: helmet hair) and had crusty snot on my nose (Sallie later verified this). At least it wasn't my t.v. debut. That was several years ago when I was walking home in my running clothes after doing a road race in the middle of July (think: humid, sweaty hair), and was stopped to be interviewed. I never saw it, but many people I know did and they were all kind enough not to mention my appearance.

After these two experiences, I now understand why people often sound dumb when they are on the news. You are standing there in front of a camera and several people, and expected to spontaneously come up with an answer to a surprise question (while you are pondering the crusty snot on your nose and weather it will be visible to the home viewers). The topic they wanted to discuss at Mellow Johnny's was Lance's $10,000 time trial bike which had just been stolen at the Tour of California. Did we know about it? What did we think about it? He was using Twitter to try to locate it - was that a good idea? So, while it wasn't anything that required any deep thinking, one of my answers still haunts me. When she asked what I thought about his bike being stole I said something like that was too bad that someone would do that and it could mess up his race, but I was pretty sure he could afford a new one. Now, that wasn't very nice, was it? It doesn't really matter if he can afford a new one. The point is that someone stole his property, and not only that, but something that he needed for the race, and would be hard to replace. It doesn't matter who he is or how much money he makes. Well, that was cathartic for me. I've been carrying that around for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure what a really good answer would've been, but I'll ponder that.

In the meantime, my cousin, who also lives in Texas, (wasn't that a fantastic segue?) has asked for the brussel sprout recipe I made for Christmas. Her fiance liked them and so she wants to make some. She's even considering eating them herself. So, of course, I'm happy to oblige and support the eating of brussel sprouts. I wonder if Lance likes them? I'm not exactly sure how I cooked them on Christmas, but it was probably something like this. I like sauteeing them, because it's fast, but roasting them is even more tasty.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts - I'd probably figure about 6-8 per person, unless they are really small, then a few more
1 tblspn olive oil
water or veggie broth for moistening pan
salt and pepper
a few splashes Balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. Trim the brussel sprout stems. This is a little tricky. You need to cut of the tough part, but I find if you cut off the whole bottom, then the brussel sprouts fall apart as you cook them and you have lots of stray leaves. Once you trim the bottom, peel of and discard at least one layer of leaf and discard. Cut the brussel sprouts in half.
2. Heat a skillet/frying pan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Let that heat up for a minute. (You don't want to make the pan too hot or else the outsides will brown too much before the insides cook.)
3. Add the brussel sprouts. Sautee for about five minutes on one side, then use a metal spatula to flip them and get the other side. If the pan gets too dry, then add splashes of water or veggie broth. Stir every couple of minutes.
4. Cook until tender. This should only take 10 or 15 minutes if the sprouts are fresh. If it's later in the season, it may take longer. After 10 minutes of cooking, if they are not done, you can put a splash of water in and then cover the pan for a minute which will help to steam them. When just about done, add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Optional: when the sprouts are done, splash with a bit of balsamic vinegar, and turn off the pan. This adds a little sweetness to offset the bitter taste. Or, shut off pan and add some grated parmesean.

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