Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simple Zucchini Pasta Dish

As it turned out, another side benefit to the aforementioned lousy bout of weather, besides my running more, was that I read more than I probably would've otherwise. I've had a good run of books and have really enjoyed the last five books I've read.
First, was Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs. I've enjoyed his descriptive style in the past and also his ability to develop characters. This book didn't disappoint. There's typically not a lot of action in his books. They usually take place in some sleepy has-been small town and take a look into the lives of some of the eccentric characters that live there.
Second was a book I picked up in the airport in London, The Gargoyle. The cover looked a bit foreboding - a Gothic style with black edges to the pages. The description made it sound like a fantasy novel and while there was definitely an element of the unreal, it was mostly a love story packaged in a creative tale. It reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, which you had to suspend judgment of what's believable to get to appreciate a very touching story of a couple very much in love.
Next was Sarah's Key. This was historical fiction and took place during the Holocaust. It took place in France and relayed the story of a lesser known incident regarding Jews in France in 1942. It is very sad, but well done. There are 2 parallel stories - one current day, and one from 1942. There were many subtle connections throughout between both stories.
Then, for a change of pace, I read a graphic novel which was given to me as a birthday gift. It told the story of a relationship through the eyes of objects. It was set up like an auction guide, and each item revealed something about this relationship. It was very clever and I was surprised at my ability to gain a sense of some of the intimate moments and dynamics of this relationship from the descriptions of these objects. There were some notes and letters dispersed throughout, so that helped a lot.
Then, I pulled out an early Ann Patchett book, The Patron Saint of Liars. I've had it on my bookshelf for years. I really enjoyed her other books Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant, and again, I was not disappointed. I enjoy her writing as well. This book took place in a home for young pregnant women who were sent away to have their babies and give them up for adoption.
Now, I'm ready for a new book and think it's time for some non-fiction. I haven't had much time to read for the last week and don't anticipate much time this week either, but have to set myself up for vacation, which is just five days away...
In the meantime, I'm trying to utilize the vegetables from my donated farm share. My friends, Wayne and Jean are away and are letting me take their veggies for 2 weeks! I've got a bunch of zucchini and I was tired tonight, so didn't feel like making anything too involved. The recipe I looked at had you boiling the zucchini, which I think is a bad idea. I think it would disintegrate. I read a little about salting zucchini to drain it a bit before cooking and decided to try it. I think it worked well, but don't know how different it would have turned out otherwise. It did seem firmer than times I have cooked zucchini in the past. I added beans to the original recipe and didn't think of it until after, but some lemon would probably be a nice addition as well.

Simple Zucchini Pasta
1/2 tspn (or more) hot chili flakes
1 tblspn olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tspn plus 1/2 tspn salt
3 cups of sliced zucchini
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz of bowties
1/2 can (or more) cannelini (white kidney) beans
1/2 cup of grated parmesean cheese

1. Put the sliced zucchini in a colander over a plate or in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Toss it so it's evenly coated. Let it sit for 45 minutes.
2. Put the pasta on to cook. Then, heat the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, swirling it around in the pan so the oil gets flavored.
3. Add the zucchini. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Add parsley and beans. Cook for 5 more minutes, until beans heated through.
4. Turn off heat and add grated cheese. Add cooked pasta to pan, mix up and add some salt to taste.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mom's Potato Salad

Wow. It's been a long time since I've posted anything. I'm not sure why, really. Part of the reason is that work has been busy. But I think the dreary weather has been making me feel a little uninspired in the kitchen. Summer seems to have finally arrived though and we've had some really nice days over the last couple of weeks.
During the painfully long spring we had, I found myself getting back into running. Not that I ever totally gave it up, but I had cut back to try to do some more cycling. Then I got an injury after running the Austin half marathon in February. I couldn't run for 3 months. I think it was an IT band injury that I got as a result of running strangely during the race due to some blisters I had on the balls of my feet. I had a great race though. Three months was the longest I've ever gone without running since I started to run over 15 years ago.
So, thankfully I can run again. Between the rainy weather and long hours in work, I find running easier to accomplish than riding. I can get in a good workout in a shorter amount of time, and I can do it in the dark when I get home late. There's also so much less gear for it. Running is pretty simple in that regard: sneakers and some clothes, that's all you need. I've also been trail running again which I really enjoy. I find running on trails mentally engaging and easier on my body than running on concrete.
Anyway, since cookout season has finally arrived, I decided it was time to make some potato salad. I had bought some of those little potatoes that come in red, white and blue, thinking that would be a fun dish for 4th of July. I searched around for an interesting recipe, but then ended up going with a classic - my mom's potato salad. I don't like eggs and all kinds of goop in my potato salad. This one does have mayo, but it's still on the lighter side as far as potato salads go.

Mom's Potato Salad
2-3 lbs of potatoes, chopped into large-ish bite size chunks. The little red potatoes work well, but russet or yukon gold would work fine. You just need to peel those.
1 rib of celery chopped small
4 or 5 scallions chopped finely (more if you like onion. You could also use red onion)
1/4 cup mayo
1 tblspn cider vinegar
1 tspn celery seed
salt and pepper

1. Boil potatoes till tender, but don't let them get too soft or they'll fall apart when you're mixing everything. Drain and let cool.
2. Put celery and onion in bowl.
3. Mix mayo, vinegar and celery seed.
4. Put potatoes in bowl with veggies. Pour dressing on top, and add some salt and pepper. Mix and top with some paprika.