Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pear Salad with Walnuts and Greens

Last night, we went to see our friend Tom in his latest stage performance: Osacar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband". Prior to the movie, we had our friend Steve over for a casual dinner. I told him to keep his expectations low, since I was just serving the Minestrone and some salad. When Todd and I took a walk in the late morning to get our daily weekend infusion of coffee (hers) and mini blueberry scones (his), we stopped at the corner grocery. It's a little market with a Greek influence and I occasionally go there when in need of a head of lettuce. I noticed yesterday that the pears looked nice, so I picked out one of those as well. Later, when trying to decide on a salad for dinner and wanting to incorporate the pear, I realized I needed some cheese and a few other things. I was about to hop in the car and head over to Whole Paycheck when I decided it was both more efficient and socially responsible to instead walk back to Christo's, the corner store. Here, I picked up some Feta, a French baguette (apparently imported daily from the North End), seltzer, and a custom cut piece of Parmesan wrapped in a piece of wax paper, the price written on it with a Sharpie. I was enamored by the cheese in the wax paper. It seemed so Old World to not have something wrapped up air tight.
In addition to the salad lending itself well to the sustainability of my community, it was also a nice accompaniment to the soup. I think gorgonzola may have been a better choice than the feta since it would pack a little more punch. For the record, I only had a tiny bit of cheese on mine as part of my detox (see last post).

Pear Salad on greens
1 head of butter, red or green lettuce, torn into small pieces
2 handfuls of walnuts, toasted
1-2 pears, sliced
1/8 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup crumbled feta, gorgonzola or bleu cheese

1/2 cup salad oil (canola)
3 tblspns apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tspn celery seed
1/2 tspn salt
dash pepper

1. Divide the salad ingredients amongst 4 -6 plates
2. Put the dressing ingredients in a jar with lid and shake till well blended. Pour over salads.

Minestrone Soup

My original plan was to come home from England on Friday, and do the last 'cross race of the season on Saturday. I knew I wouldn't be in the best of shape, after switching time zones and not having had much time to run or ride while there, but figured I'd just go out and have fun with it. Unfortunately, I was in much worse shape than I even anticipated. After having almost no sleep for 6 out of the 8 nights there, getting sick partway in as a result, not being able to exercise, and having a not so great diet, I was totally wrecked by the end. I spent most of yesterday, my first day home, walking around in slow motion, trying to accomplish little things, but too foggy to do so. Probably adding to this, it's the first time it's been really cold this year. When I left, we were embarking on unseasonally high temps at almost 70 and when I got home it was in the 20s. I think this blast of cold added to my body's need to bring things down a notch, so there was no racing for me. Instead, I am going to slowly ramp back up into running and riding, and spend this week having a "casual" detox. My diet last week consisted mostly of dairy, pasta and bread. This week I will focus on vegetables and grains and try to eat as little of the aforementioned as possible.
The second I stepped out of the airport Friday evening and felt the cold wind, I knew I wanted some soup to soothe my soul. I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home to get a few veggies to make some minestrone. I got a mix of things, versus sticking to one season. Upon consulting my Moosewood Daily Specials cookbook and seeing they had a minestrone recipe for summer, autumn, winter and spring, I realized that I would like to stick to seasonal veggies and spices next time. But, for now my standard mix n' match minestrone would do. The trick is to not put too much of any one thing, especially something with a stronger flavor, like broccoli. There are many variations to the veggies I will add (often using green beans which I did not for this one). I could've sworn I had blogged this before, but couldn't find it, so here it is.

1 tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced or sliced, however you like it
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small russet potato, diced
2 cups water
4 cups veggie broth
1 tspn oregano
1 small zucchini, sliced and cut in half moons
1/2 cup small pasta, such as orzo or elbows
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 14 oz. can kidney beans
4 or 5 leaves of kale or swiss chard, chopped
1 tblsp red wine vinegar (or red wine)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1. In soup pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, broth, water, oregano and potato. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Add zucchini and pasta. (I sometimes cook the pasta separately, especially if I'm using elbows, and then add it when I'm serving at the end. Otherwise, it gets really soggy in the leftovers.) Simmer for 10 more minutes.
4. Add peas, kale or chard, vinegar, kidney beans, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 more minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Todd's Sweet Tea

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It includes all the components for a perfect weekend. I get four days to cook and eat a lot, and spend time socializing with family and friends who I don't necessarily see a lot. I usually start Thanksgiving day with a running race, and the weekend typically includes some other bike riding and running activity as well. The one sketchy factor is the weather. I can remember being at running races where it was 20 degrees and snowy, and other times where it was 65 and sunny, and everything in between. But, alas, the weather is always unpredictable. This year it was gray and rainy for much of the weekend.
Not only was the weather dreary, but my food contributions for the weekend left much to be desired. We had Thanksgiving dinner up in Maine with Todd's family. I did help with some of the peeling and chopping, but my only addition to the meal was a salad, which was nothing at all exciting. Just the usual greens with cranberries, apples, walnuts and feta with a balsamic dijon vinaigrette. Yawn.
Then, on Sunday we went to the annual Turkey Hoist party started by my friend, Eugene. This year it was hosted by Keith and Michelle at their lovely refurbished home on a lake in Ayer. Lauri, who was visiting from Colorado and needed a little break from family time, accompanied us. According to my last name, I was supposed to bring an appetizer or side dish, but since I thought we'd be late, I instead brought a dessert. This was a bad decision on my part because we got there right on time for dinner, there weren't enough side dishes and my dessert was terrible. I would have totally enjoyed making some fun grain or potato dish, and instead made a slightly healthy pumpkin dessert and didn't enjoy the process, nor the outcome. I still haven't quite gotten over this, but I figure writing about it may help purge my bad feelings of missed cooking/ eating/ sharing opportunity.
Since I emerged from the weekend without a fun recipe to share, you will instead get the iced tea recipe I make for Todd. This is mainly because I am about to leave to London for 8 days, leaving Todd tea-less for much of it, and he may try to make it himself. Todd likes his tea much sweeter than I do. It took me many tries to get just the right tea/sugar/lemon combination to get it just the way he likes it. I've tried using honey and also agave nectar for sweetener, but it seems he likes the cane sugar the best. The pitcher we have makes a four day supply for him, and since I made one last night, he should be out by Saturday. You can check in with him to see if he makes more or opts for a Nantucket Nectars Half and Half from the convenient store up the street...

Sweet Todd's Sweet Tea

10 black tea teabags
2/3 cup sugar
juice from 2 lemons
24 oz boiled water
24 oz cold water

1. Boil water, then let sit in kettle for a few minutes to cool down just a bit.
2. Pour hot water into pitcher over tea bags. Let tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Add sugar slowly and stir to help dissolve.
4. Squeeze lemon juice into mixture being careful to not get any seeds (using a lemon squeezer gadget comes in handy here).
5. Add cold water and chill for 8 hours before drinking.