Monday, September 2, 2013

Sallie's Black Bean Salad

The few weeks leading up to my 2 week vacation were a bit intense and I found myself wondering if it was really worth it, also knowing that my return to work post-vacation would be similar. So as I sit here on the eve of said return, I want to record that it was, in fact, worth it. (Ask me again in 48 hours.) Two weeks vs just one week makes a really big difference in my ability to disconnect and settle into a different mode. My vacation was a great mix of everything I wanted it to be. I already mentioned in an earlier post I got to try new things. I had some time away and also some time at home to do things in the area. I visited with friends and family and met some new people. I got to linger, meander and ponder. I read a couple of books. I saw movies. I ate lots of good food (and some not so good for those of you who know the food poisoning story). I spent lots of time outdoors, biking, hiking, SUPing, walking, picnicking. I slept well. I cooked a bit. I wrote in my blog after a long hiatus.  Sure there were other things I wanted to get to and didn't, but that's OK. I feel satisfied and re-charged.

And while it feels like most of my summer whizzed by without much notice, I do have a few highlights I'd like to dwell on for a moment:
  • Attending the Robert Plant show at the Boston Pavilion with my cousin, one of her BFFs and one of my BFFs. The show way exceeded my expectations and it was great to be with people who enjoyed it as much as I did.
  • A four day bike trek in Massachusetts with Kathy discovering places in my home state I never knew existed with some other fun things to discover along the way (Turners Falls, Deerfield, Greenfield, many covered bridges, mischievous piggies, The People's Pint, cute country store with great sandwiches).
  • A super quick trip to Nantucket to visit Sallie and an exhilarating bike ride in the rain.
  • A day-trip to the Peabody Essex Museum, Gloucester and the area.

Sallie's black bean salad was a signature dish for Summer 2013 so it seems fitting to capture it here since I made it again tonight. It's cool and refreshing, perfect for hot, muggy, summer nights like tonight when you don't want to put the stove on. You could also add some feta if you were in the mood.

Black Bean Salad

Add more or less of the following according to your likes:

1 can black beans
1/2 bag frozen corn, defrosted
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped finely
1 avocado, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tspns cumin
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
The juice from one good sized lime

1. Mix all ingredients in a big bowl and blend well.

Pickled Eggs with Dill

Smith Rock, Oregon
You may have noticed that I like to have some variety in my life and to try new things here and there. I have my tried and true activities that I like to do consistently, but need a healthy infusion of new and different every so often to keep me going. As I reflect on my last two weeks of vacation and consider how enjoyable that time off was, a component of my "rating system" concerns whether I did anything new to me. Of course, I saw new places in Oregon that I hadn't been to before, Smith Rock being a highlight for me. But I did also try my hand at some new things: Stand up paddle boarding, riding a Brompton, and pickling eggs. My report is as follows.

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) as I understand has been around for a while but just now catching on here with some vengeance in the Boston area. Most of the women I've mentioned it to have either tried it or expressed interest in trying it and most of the men seem confused by it and can't understand why one would want to do such a thing. "Why not just kayak?" seems to be a common question. This, however, is not based on a very large sampling, so I wouldn't consider this any kind of conclusive research. I've SUPed four times thus far, so I'm certainly not an expert, but I can tell you what I enjoy about it. First off, I'm kind of excited to have a water sport. I'm not a person who grew up spending a lot of time in the water, so when I wanted to try a tri in my 30s, I actually had to learn how to swim for real, not just doggy paddle style. Secondly, I find SUPing rhythmic and peaceful when doing it on the river. I know ocean SUPing will be a different experience and I look forward to seeing what that is like. Compared to kayaking, I like having my whole body free, and being able to use the lower half of my body as well. I will sometimes kneel on the board or lie down just to feel something different, or stop and do a couple of yoga poses, or jump in the water when it gets hot. Last, I also like that SUPing works my core and upper body since cycling and running is mostly focused on legs.

As for riding a Brompton, you could argue that it's not really new, since it is riding a bike and I have done that plenty of times before, but since I had never even so much as taken Todd's for a short spin, I felt a little nervous as we picked up our rented fold up bikes and got ready to head to Sunday Parkways in Portland. I still haven't gotten the hang of the folding and unfolding process and needed to think very carefully as I did it. And as we headed over to ride up and then down Mt. Tabor I was feeling nervous about how it would be ascending and descending on those little wheels. But, all was well and it was a fun and comfortable bike to ride around the city on. I took it to yoga one day and was extremely impressed with myself for getting there and back without getting lost. Portland is such a great city to ride a bike around with clear markings for where bikes should be at any point where it might otherwise get confusing.

And then, yesterday, I made an attempt at pickling eggs. I've never pickled or canned anything before but have always loved things prepared this way. When Kathy and I were on our 4 day bike trek via a Mass Bike tour a few weeks ago, we ate one night at a place called The People's Pint in Greenfield, MA. I loved everything about this place and will definitely make a trip back there. They had pickled eggs as a snack you could buy at the bar and I learned that this was, for a long time, a popular pub food. ? How did I get to this age and never eat a pickled egg? Not that I can remember, anyway. So, when we got back from Portland, I went straight to Tags Hardware, bought a case of pint sized Ball jars, looked up some recipes and boiled a dozen eggs. The hardest part is peeling the eggs, which I am exceedingly bad at, despite the many tips that have been given to me. I think I just may need to practice. The eggs need to pickle for at least a week and so I can't yet give you an accurate report, but I did want to record the recipe before I forget what I did. I just tried one even though it's only been 24 hours (I used the excuse that I was testing it so I could write this post, but really I'm just impatient.) So far it tastes like a hard boiled egg with just a hint of flavor, but at least it wasn't offensive. I'm looking forward to next Sunday and hoping for some good results. There are so many variations of ways to flavor them and if this goes well, next I will do some green beans.

Pickled Eggs with Dill

1 dozen hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tspns salt
3 tblspns chopped fresh dill
a couple of shakes red hot chili pepper
1/4 tspn white pepper
1/2 tspn mustard seed
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tspn dried onion flakes

1. Put all the pickling ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Put eggs in jar(s), pour hot liquid over them. Screw on caps and refrigerate immediately.
3. Pickle for 1-2 weeks, then eat!