Archive for June, 2009

Sandwiched

I’m sure I’ve told you all about our panini discovery in Lyon, France. Every day for lunch we’d stop at the same cart beside Place Bellacour and buy the same sandwiches and two cans of Coke Diète from the same vendor.

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It was partly because of the panini, which made for comforting midday fuel after a morning spent meandering cobbled streets and medieval ruins, and partly because the vendor graciously let me converse with her in halting French. I could have sworn she actually enjoyed letting me practice my language skills on her. Now that we were outside Paris, I wasn’t interrupted and replied to in English every time I opened my mouth.

Around here, panini are always on the menu when I want to go on vacation but, alas, am stuck in my kitchen.  (I am chagrined, though, that the panini is the new bagel — cheap, Americanized incarnations are even sold on certain fast food menus and in the freezer aisle. Talk about ruining my psychological getaway.)

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Just about any bread will do, but I’m partial to this latest trick that makes the meal seem less lunchbox, more café patio. I make a batch of whole wheat pizza dough, stretch it into a thin rectangle and baste it with a bit of olive oil. Then I bake it at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes or so. When it cools, I cut it into individual sandwich-sized wedges and layer on the fillings, then press.

Try these favorites of ours:

  • Scrambled egg, ham, cheese & dried or chopped oregano
  • Caramelized onion, kalamata olives and chèvre dipped in homemade ketchup
  • Smoked salmon and chèvre
  • Smoked turkey, asparagus and fontina
  • Sliced tomatoes, arugula and French feta

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This salad inspired by…

We’ve been here before, right? This territory looks strikingly familiar: the long, hot days; the stretching blue sky; the kids — their stuff, their noise — everywhere. And for dinner? Salad. Salad, salad, and once again, salad.

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Salad because it’s so easy. Salad because it’s fast. Salad because the weather seems to call for it and you feel like gathering around the table and eating. But you may not feel like eating a whole lot.

Enter one of summer’s greatest challenges. Yes, there’s the challenge of getting the kids to keep their flip flops out of the entryway and to hang up their swimsuits rather than just dropping sopping spandex onto the bathroom tile. I can’t help you with that. But there’s also the challenge of keeping those fresh greens feeling fresh. And that, friends, I’m more than willing to help with.

Let’s start with this one. This thrown-together specimen of a few nights ago that was, I daresay, inspired. That’s right, salad can be both thrown together and inspired.

This chopped salmon salad was inspired by a fateful combination of factors.

One, a freezer full of wild Alaskan salmon.

Two, the desire to create a salad that my six-year-old wouldn’t balk at because its appearance was less suspiciously salad and more a la carte.

Three, a similar salad on the menu at Wildflower Bread Company that I was tempted to try on a recent outing, but instead just made a mental note of the concept so I could make it at home.

Now, your turn: Do try this at home. With a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

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Never board a ship without an onion

It was the Dutch who coined that particularly useful piece of advice. (Aren’t you glad to know?)

It’s a pretty bad idea, heading off on a long voyage, onion-less. I, for one, wouldn’t dare a transatlantic crossing without the bulb. Where would soup be without an onion? Or marinara? Or stir-fry?

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The world at large has generated whole chapters of food-related proverbs. Like the French, who said, “The man who sells onions knows a good leek.” Also French, and also true in my opinion, is this one: “He who does not eat cheese will go mad.”

I came across these in a book of lesser-known proverbs. Here are a few other bites of sagacity you really should have in your possession.

“The grimness of labor is better than the saffron of sloth.” –Egyptian

“Rest after a meal, even if your parents are dead.” –Japanese

“Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot.” –Irish

“Two hazelnuts make an army for the walnut.” –Serbian

“No herring, no wedding.” –Manx

“One sprinkles the most sugar where the tart is burnt.” — Dutch

And finally, a wise remark if there ever was one:

“When the food tastes best, stop eating.”

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Conflicted

You think you have it down. You keep the countertop fruit basket and refrigerator crispers stocked. You’ve indoctrinated your kids to (usually) munch carrots and cucumbers and have a fondness for frozen grapes. Sure, you (occasionally) toss not-ideal granola bars into the backseat after school the way Shamu’s trainers toss herring — but isn’t it ideal to avoid a low-blood-sugar-induced meltdown? Those bars are a foil-wrapped concession that you ventured deep into the supermarket to procure, but they are completely devoid of anything really, really bad.

You know, because you read the box.

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And then you read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” You realize just how insidious the food world you inhabit really is. Reading labels isn’t the noble practice you thought it was because it means you’re as much under the spell of the reductive science of nutrition as all the other suckers inhabiting the Western world. You’re smack in the palms of food producers: The more you read labels and boxes, looking for health claims and the absence of no-no ingredients, the more reason they have to process more label-heavy foodstuffs (“Now with omega-3s!”).

You’ve been played. Swindled. And you thought you were being good.

Then, as you contemplate the newfound knowledge that all that time you spent up on your high horse you pretty much just had your head in the clouds, your husband walks in the door carrying this:

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Just as you’ve resolved to think twice before (occasionally) buying processed snacks that owe their existence to nutrition science, husband hauls in a bag of “robot food.” That is, scientifically engineered calories for athletes who must refuel on the fly (see, your husband’s a mountain biker who races several times a year and who happens to share office space with a company that plans bike races and triathalons and similar events).

You don’t neglect to note the irony that this supply entered your home in a trash bag.

You remain in your corner absorbing Pollan’s unscientific-but-logical brand of wisdom while your husband gears up for a ride by absorbing an ultra-scientific blend of crystalline fructose and super soy protein.

Is this what they call agreeing to disagree?

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