Friday, September 30, 2011

Peaceful Potpourri

Farmers Market Dude
The Thursday Farmer's Market turns out to be my favorite.  I have a "vegetable guy" and an "apple guy".  The veg guy, mentioned in a previous post, seems to like me more each week.  This week he remembered me, though he hasn't gotten my name down just yet (and vice versa).  I purchased several tomatoes from him to add to this Jamie Oliver Favorite (a healthy-ish Baked Ziti for those who don't want to click the link), and a long-necked pumpkin that I told him I was going to brew beer with.  His interest piqued at the mention of beer and apparently he will be more than happy to trade food for homebrewed beer if I were to bring him some.  Rules be damned!  

The long-necked pumpkin is supposedly more like a butternut squash than a pumpkin, both in looks and taste.  This is good because a butternut squash is what I actually wanted  for the beer but they must not be in season quite yet.  The plan is to roast it and add to the brew with some freshly ground nutmeg and some honey if I'm feeling adventurous.

HOT Compost
Dan was out stirring/aerating/pitchforking the compost pile last night and noticed for the first time that it is HOT!  This is a very exciting development because that is exactly how a compost pile is supposed to be, and exactly how ours has never been.  Looks like we will have some nutritious dirt to spread over the next things we decide to plant.  Hooray!

Dan attributes this recent success to the fact that he has been stirring/aerating/pitchforking the pile recently.  We didn't have the right tool before and clumsily tried to stir it with a giant shovel.  Recently we've acquired a pitchfork and this seems to be doing a much better job.

Ruminations on Bike Commuting
I have ridden my bike to work about 500% more than last year, meaning that my previous number was "0" and this year it is around "5".  With the weather turning crisp and cool (and less wet please??), I am hoping to squeeze more bike commuting days into my schedule.  The following describes my experience today:
  • The first section of the ride goes through tree-lined pathways that are for walkers, joggers, and bikers only.  It is so pleasant!  Everyone says hello and I feel relaxed and happy to be out among them.  Endorphins are good!
  • The second part of the ride is short and is done on a sidewalk because it would otherwise be on a busy four-lane street with no shoulder.  Why don't all roads have shoulders?
  • Later, I am on an exit ramp with a WIDE and luxurious shoulder.  It ends as abruptly as the exit ramp does.  Who designed this?
  • There is a small part of the ride, very close to work, with no shoulder AND no sidewalk (again, why?).  Drivers feel more aggressive the closer they get to their destination.  They seem furious at my mere presence on their road.    
  • The absolute worst driver of the morning needed to make a right turn at the gym at the same time that I needed to go straight past the gym.  They wanted to speed up and beat me to the turn/run me over, but ended up slamming on their brakes as rational thoughts overtook murderous ones.  No wonder this person was unpleasant- they were rushing to the gym to work out in a futile attempt to offset the hours they spend sitting at work only to then rush home, probably eat, and do more sitting.
Conclusion: if everyone biked to work, at least some things would be better.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Colorful Plate

One of my favorite "I Love Lucy" episodes is the one where Lucy breaks the news to Ricky that she is pregnant by preparing a dinner including baby peas, baby corn, etc.  As I recall, it takes him a few comedy-filled minutes to get the point, but what a cute idea.  (Don't worry mom, that's not where this post is going!)  I was reminded of it when chopping my farmer's market finds this weekend for a pan of roasted vegetables.

My favorite stand at the market houses a friendly, self-titled "farmer dude" who never fails to throw a little something extra into my bag.  He was advertising baby beets and baby sweet potatoes this week, so that's what I got along with some of their super-fragrant garlic.

Sunday Dinner:  Porcini and Wild Rice Soup with Roasted Vegetables
The porcini and wild rice soup was inspired by  To this recipe, I added several stalks of celery and used three chopped carrots in the soup instead of grating one on top.

As I said, the roasted veggies came fresh from the farmer's market.  The deep oranges and purples of the dish evoked thoughts of Autumn, and Dan agreed that it tasted quite good.

1 bunch of baby sweet potatoes
1 bunch of baby beets
5 cloves of garlic (I would have used the whole bulb if I didn't need it for something else)
1 leek
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (from the herb garden!)
1 lug of olive oil

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into small chunks.  Cut the tops and bottoms off of the baby beets and slice them.  Peel and chop the garlic.  Chop the leek.  Pick the rosemary leaves from their stems.  Mix it all up in a casserole-style dish and drizzle with olive oil until glistening.  Salt and pepper if you wish.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and cook at 375 for 45-60 minutes.  Check the dish periodically towards the end to see when the veggies get appropriately soft.

A Peaceful Plate Would Like to Recognize...
Lately, I've been giving one my co-workers - Gary, aka Garebear, aka Garie - a hard time about his particularly earth-toned diet.  I see him eat sandwiches often and drink a large can of Starbucks coffee energy drink most afternoons.  He came to work this past week with some fancy grape juice instead, made from wine grapes, and purportedly quite yummy. Way to go Gary!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Traveling Plate: Greece!

Dan and I recently returned from a trip to Greece.  We were there for two weeks and explored Athens, Santorini, and 5 or 6 other islands of the Cyclades via sailboat.  What better way to summarize any experience than with a list of superlatives!

Most Crowded Ancient Site: The Acropolis.  Not even a sweaty day and a big hill can keep the tourists out.

Favorite Greek word: My keyboard is missing the Greek letters, but phonetically the word for "ferry" looks like "feree mbot".  Say that five times fast and you've got "ferry boat".

Best Greek Beard:

Best Trip Photo: They love their sunsets in Santorini.  Folks start lining up at about 5:30 for a good view of the 7:30 sunset.  Dan and I were amused on our second night there when people actually applauded as the sun went down.  "Great job, Earth!  Keep on rotating!"

Best Random Experience: Docking on the island of Aegina during their third annual Pistachio Festival.  Pistachio liquor, pistachio bread, pistachio cookies, candied pistachios, and the famous King of the Pistachios Jug Race*!

*I actually have no idea what this race was called.

Favorite Greek Food (and the point of this post): Santorini "Fava".

I enjoyed the food in Greece very much.  Very good bread, very good fruit, very good lamb, and a reasonable selection of very good vegetarian dishes.  At most restaurants Dan could get a roasted tomato stuffed with seasoned rice which turned out to be quite delicious.  A yummy food local to Santorini is something called tomatokeftedes, which is a bit like a spiced and deep-fried veggie burger where the main ingredient is tomatoes rather than beans.  My very favorite thing, the thing we kept ordering again and again, was the fava.

There are no fava beans in Santorini "fava", rather there are yellow split peas.  It is served mainly as a starter and we found it to be delicious on bread - served with every. meal. - or shoveled into our mouths by the spoonful.  It was the first thing I wanted to make upon our return, and here is the accurate-tasting recipe we followed.  It is a simple but tasty addition to dinner.