29 July, 2012

soggy bread

So, this surgery thing is really difficult, just in case you were wondering. There's no doubt that I'm learning a lot and having some really unique experiences, but at the end of the day I do not feel at all inspired. Check that field of specialties off my list.

I've been doing my best to take care of myself, making vegetables and sleep a priority while other things (the same gym bag has been in my car for 3 1/2 weeks) fall by the wayside. I'm also multitasking and working at my desk while eating, which is less than ideal. Fortunately Ian comes home today [huge smile on my face], so that should help with that.

That is soggy bread on my salad - delicious and highly under-appreciated. There are so many things that you can do with stale bread, and this is my favorite one in the summer, as compared to using it in soups or a panade. I have always been a fan of soggy bread. One of my favorite meals growing up was my mom's pot roast. Part of my love for this dish definitely had to do with the fact that after we all had our share of meat, potatoes, onions and carrots, my Dad would go get a loaf of bread, set a slice in the center of his plate, and pour the cooking juices over it. And I would always follow suit. Just thinking of that salty, soggy, gooey bread makes my mouth water.

I bought a loaf of bread at the farmer's market early in July, but barely ate half of it before it began to get too hard and crusty. So I cut it up into cubes and stored them in a plastic bag in the fridge. Whenever I want to add some to a salad, I put a handful into a bowl and cover them with water to soak while I prepare the rest of the salad. Then I squeeze the water out of them, add some olive oil & vinegar, add them to the salad, and top off with a bit more oil & vinegar. I know few people that need encouragement to eat more carbohydrates, but this is really tasty and some days you just need that extra caloric energy.

In the salad pictured above: arugula, heirloom tomato, edamame, feta cheese, soggy bread, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper.

22 July, 2012

speaking of salads

It's been quite a while since I have used a recipe. I've been avoiding the stove top, and the idea of turning on the oven would be crazy. It's hot here and my single window unit does the kitchen no good at all. I guess it's a good thing my parents didn't listen when I said coming up from Houston would offer them some relief from the summer heat. Fortunately, I can easily get through the whole summer on salads alone.

Let's take a minute to expand our definition of "salad". I do not mean iceberg lettuce. Not even romaine, or butterhead, or mixed field greens. As far as I'm concerned, a Salad (I'll use a capital 'S' to keep things straight, my Salad has a capital, the standard restaurant side salad does not) requires no leaves, but if you do want that kind of salad you might as well make them spinach or kale or arugula. Something with flavor and nutrients. I have seen many pitiful salads, and I'm convinced that this is why so many people say things like, "I don't like vegetables". What do you mean you don't like vegetables? Your body thrives on vegetables. Throwing some grilled chicken, shredded cheddar, a few diced veggies and ranch onto your standard lettuce is not going to make it much more exciting, or satiating for that matter. There have been times when I have felt a strong urge to teach the world how to make Salads. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I think that this food blogger is off to a really good start.

So then, what is a Salad? The dictionary says it's basically just a mixture of foods - raw or cooked veggies, sometimes with meat, with a dressing, served cold. See? nothing about lettuce. The key to a good Salad is simply starting with good, fresh ingredients. You can throw in just about anything, you just don't want to get carried away. Often the fewer things the better. I always try to include a good protein source - tuna, nuts, beans, lentils. I often just drizzle a little olive oil and lemon juice over top, but sometimes I actually mix up a honey mustard dressing or some kind of vinaigrette, but I rarely ever buy a pre-made bottled salad dressing. Adding in a grain can easily turn a light salad into a full meal, maybe even a whole week of meals.

Here is a quinoa salad that I made yesterday for a friend's going-away party. I wasn't sure where it was going when I started, but it turned out to be really delicious. This also means I didn't measure, so I'm just guessing on the measurements now. If anything seems off to you, please adapt accordingly, and let me know so I can change it on here. I wish I had more left over for myself, but this is all I've got. Enough for a photo, at least.

Quinoa Salad with Mango and Edamame Recipe:
3 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup dry, maybe a bit less)
1 champagne mango, cut into cubes
3/4 cup edamame
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything together. Serve on a bed of arugula, or by itself.

I've got a few other salad ideas up my sleeves that I hope to be sharing on here soon, so stay tuned.

15 July, 2012

cooking for two

One day, in the middle of last week, I knew that I was going to be able to sleep in the next morning. My current definition of sleeping in is waking up any time after the sun rises high enough to pass a ray of light through one of my windows. Any one of them, I'm not picky. so long as I'm not leaving my house in the dark and driving to work passing party-goers making their final stop at the McDonald's drive-through. In celebration of that fact I invited a friend over for dinner with plans to take a walk and get ice cream afterwards. It was a simple evening, but we relished our taste of freedom and our bit of summer. I've been craving lazy summer days each time I see a block party or a wet-headed, pig-tailed girl riding a bicycle. But now is the time for surgery, and I have plenty of summers yet to live.

Our evening was simple. We introduced our pets and discovered that Zenith is scared of playful dogs. I heard him hiss for the first time ever, which made me a bit sad because he has never hissed at other cats. For dinner I made a salad and corn on the cob. Much of it was fresh from the farmer's market: the corn, butter with garlic scapes, tomato, cucumber, baby mustard greens and a soft buttery lettuce, tarragon white vinegar, sourdough bread. I don't usually peel cucumbers, but this time I did, and I added the peels to a pitcher of water and chilled it in the fridge. I chopped things up and made a dressing. I briefly boiled the sweet corn and slathered it with butter. I was having such a good time before my friend even arrived.

 It made me realize how much I enjoy preparing food for other people. It can be a luxury to prepare a good meal for yourself, but there's something very special about creating a dish - even a basic lettuce & veggie salad - that you will share with somebody else. It makes peeling cucumbers, using up the very last tomato, or splurging on some fresh herbs all seem completely worthwhile. That food becomes a sort of offering, a gift, a poem, an expression of love and friendship, it says "I care about you. I will feed you tasty things."

I'm going to try to have people over for dinner more often. Or lunch, or brunch, or coffee, whatever my crazy schedule will allow. Let me know if you want to come, feel free to invite yourself, my kitchen is open. And I will definitely be throwing myself a birthday party next month - I can't wait to come up with the menu.

03 July, 2012

sharing travel stories

Part of what I love about traveling is looking for great places to go while I'm there - the best gelato in Italy, a private art gallery, a beautiful rooftop view. This website is a great forum for travelers to find these kinds of recommendations. I've posted a few of my own highlights from my time in Freiburg & Berlin.

I've also uploaded a few video clips. They could use some more work - I'm afraid you will have to put up with the sound of me panting as I climb a hill - but it's a fun way to save and share memories. I used a fun iPhone app called 8mm to record them.

a few photos from Berlin

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