Monthly Archives: August 2006

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

This was a recipe from Bon Appetit that I found on epicurious.com and adjusted a bit for the ingredients on hand and my particular tastes. It is very very easy to make, and has a lot of flavor, without being too heavy. The flavor is a little bland though, so I like to spice it up with some pesto and some goat cheese. In the picture here, when I served it at dinner, I used a crumpet mold to put a ring of rice in the middle of the bowl, but that made the dish a litle too starchy, and doing it over again, I would leave out the rice.

My Rating: 7

4 Roma tomatoes, halved
1 medium eggplant, halved lengthwise
1 large onion, halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
4 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place tomatoes, eggplant, onion and garlic in a baking dish and brush them with oil. The oil helps prevent their outer layer from burning as it dries out. Don’t neglect to do this, or you may end up with a “blackened” taste. Roast until vegetables are tender and brown in spots, about 45 minutes.

Remove them from the oven and use a spoon to scoop the eggplant flesh from skin into heavy large saucepan (I wouldn’t use nonstick for this, since we’re going to be blending it later, with a metal headed immersion blender). Throw away the skin. Add the rest of the vegetables as well as the spices and the chicken broth. Bring it up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

The soup is now ready to blend. This is most easily accomplished with a hand blender, or stick blender, or immersion blender, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s important that it have a metal head if you’re sticking it in hot liquid. You can blend the sould very quickly and evenly with one of these. If not, work in batches and ladle it into the blender. As you blend it, the hot liquid will splash up, so it’s a good idea to cover the lid of the blender with a dish towel. It’s going to get messy this way (the main reason I prefer a stick blender. Also, I like gadgets).

The soup is ready. Ladle it into bowls and sprinkly a bit of pesto and goat cheese in the center of the bowls. Enjoy.

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Triathlon Training – Week 3

DAY 1

Swim: 25 laps

I was planning to run today, really I was, but it was 95 degrees out and quite frankly I was a bit dehydrated. So… I swam, and even quit that earlier than I intended (I was planning on trying the mile distance). Oh, woe is me, woe is me. I need to start getting more rest.

>>>>>>>>>INTERRUPT

There was more training that week: 12 mile bike ride on wednesday, 20 mile bike ride on Friday, 8 mile run on Saturday, 17 mile bike ride on Sunday. But, more importantly, I busted a gut, so to speak. I seem to have given myself a hernia, and must forgo training as I get it repaired. On the bright side, I hadn’t registered for the race yet, so at least I’m not out $100.

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How to flesh a grapefruit

Grapefruit is tasty, but the white pith bits can make it a bit bitter, so for using it in salads or desserts, it’s often better to take just the flesh. This takes a little work but can be done quickly with practice.

Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the fruit. Cut just deep enough that you can see a clear round of flesh that is free of pith on each side.

Place the fruit with one of the cut sides down on your cutting board and with the knife just inside the border of the fleshy part and parallel to the surface of the peel, cut off a piece of the peel from one pole to the other, curving the knife to stay parallel to the peel, but below it.

Turn the fruit and continue this procedure until the side peel has all been removed. Err on the side of removing a little flesh, rather than leaving a little pith. The pith tastes very bitter, and makes the next step much harder.

Now cut into one slice, just next to the membrane, and spread the fruit open.

Now begins the delicate part.

There are two ways to remove the first side of the membrane. One is to gently pull from the outside edge and try to peel it back towards the core.

The other is to begin at the core and try to peel out towards the edge. Both can work, it just depends on which edge of the membrane comes away more easily on any given section.

To remove the section from the other side of the membrane (and the rest of the fruit) it is easiest to apply light, even pressure with your thumbs in a movement akin to opening a book. The weakest part of the fruit should be the connection between the section you’re working on, and it’s membrane. The segment should pull away. Repeat this procedure until you are left with the lovely pile of grapefruit flesh you see below.

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Grapefruit, grilled onion, and cracked almond spinach salad with Tahini Dressing

Tahini salad

I made this salad on Monday as part of dinner. The dressing is adapted from this recipe from Bon Appetit. The adjustment is for a little more tahini and a bit less oil. This dressing is great all around and will sit in the fridge without separating. It works well with chicken and fish as well.

In this case, I paired it with a sweet spinach salad. The dressing has a tangy, nutty flavor, and the sweet acidity of the grapefruit combined with the sweet earthiness of the grilled onions balances the salad well. The almonds add some crunch and a nice aroma. There aren’t quantities listed for the salad items because I never measure these things. Use your judgement.

It should also be noted that the picture here is of a half-eaten salad. The piling of grapefruit in the middle was quite dramatic, but it got gobbled down by everyone before I remembered to take a picture. So, imagine a dramatic pile of grapefruit flesh with an annulus of grilled onions.

My Rating: 8

Tahini Dressing:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove of garlic minced or put through a garlic press
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Put all ingredients except the oil in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour the oil into the running blender. Stop, you’re done.

For the Salad:
Bunches of washed baby spinach
onion sliced as thin as you can
Grapefruit
whole almonds

I use the prewashed bags of baby spinach and start with a fair blanket of spinach on the plate. The onion gets tossed in a non-stick pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of salt to brown a bit. Don’t turn the heat up, or the onion will burn instead of browning. When the onion is soft and browned (not really caramelized, but just begining to head in that direction), place it on top of the spinach on each plate. The residual heat from the onion should wilt the spinach just enough to take away a little of its crunch.

When the onions are out of the pan, throw the whole almonds in and let them feel some low heat for a bit, agitating them every now and then to flip them over. It’s hard to say exactly how long to do this, you just have to sort of smell them. Like with pine nuts, they go from raw to burnt pretty quickly and there is a time window in between when they release this roasted nut smell that says, “hey, I’m ready,” so wait for that, or if they look like they’re getting toward burnt, take them off the heat. It should only take a few minutes total. Put them in a mortar and pestel and bash them up a bit. Or if you prefer you can use a miniprep and give them a quick whirl. Sprinkle them over the salad plates.

For the grapefruit we only want the flesh. I explain how to do that here (link will be added shortly). Spread the flesh on top of the salad plates and drizzle with dressing. You’re done.

I think that was harder to explain than it was to do.

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Triathlon Training – Week 2

DAY 1

Run: 4 miles

Yesterday was a much needed rest day. Today was running and swimming but it ended up just being a run. The good news is that the first two ten minute blocks were practically all out sprints. And the last block I still had gas in the tank for a final dash.

So, good run, but I skipped out on the swim.

DAY 2

Bike: 16.5 miles

We lost at softball today. I don’t think it made me bike any faster, but it certainly made me bike angrier. My legs felt fatigued from the fast running of the day before. Probably good for muscle development in the long run, but didn’t help me feel supercharged on the ride or anything.

Part of the idea of writing this was to note any injuries, and I have been a little remiss in that. Since the weekend, or maybe even last Friday I have been worrying about the possibility of a hernia. It could possibly be a hernia or perhaps just a weak groin muscle (which I’ve definitely had before, I think. Maybe it was the begining of a hernia all along). In any case, I’ve taken to doing planks and bridges a couple of times a day to try and strengthen my abdominal wall either way. We’ll see where this goes. Surgery isn’t too bad, but it would probably mean I couldn’t do the triathlon.

DAY 3

Run: 6.25 miles

I just harven’t felt like swimming this week, which is trouble. My legs felt too tired to run fast today, so I thought I’d try running slower for a bit longer. There were a few moments when I felt like I would have been happier to stop and walk, but there was no point at which my legs quit on me, despite their overall, built-up fatigue. So, that’s a plus.

DAY 4

Bike: 22.5 miles

Lapped the Rose Bowl four times today, which may be a personal best for me. For the first time in a long time I actually felt fast on the bike. Part of that is probably that I was using my road bike, but also my legs felt good. They were tired, but they kept finding more and more push in them. Good workout.

DAY 5

An unscheduled day of rest. Woke up so tired yesterday, that I figured maybe I needed a break. Emily and I went for a bike ride, which was pretty slow and probably helped recovery, though who knows. I also lifted weights at home. Skipping the swims means that I’ve only been doing lower body workouts, which is unfortunate. Can’t keep doing that.

DAY 6

Bike: 13.5 miles

Marie-Helene was away for the weekend, as was Dal. Debrah went mountain biking in the morning. Doing workouts alone is a lot less motivating. I ended up puting it off for so long that I only had time for one Rose Bowl lap before softball. When working out alone, I should probably move it to the morning, first thing, so I don’t skimp.

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Who wants to be a Superhero?

I do! I do! The show is mesmerizing in that reality-show, rubbernecking sort of way. If you haven’t seen it, think of it as “The Apprentice” with Stan Lee, the Grand Poobah of comic book creators in the Donald Trump role, and a grab bag of the goofiest contestants in superhero costumes all edging to be the subject of his next comic book.

It’s hard to characterize the specific joy associated with watching grown men aspire to be… to be what? To be children again? No, that’s not it exactly. And of course, I’m not talking about all of the contestants here. Some of them clearly approached the situation with the attitude that it was a reality show, and they wanted to be on television, and the rest was just a matter of the details. But some clearly took the show as something different. One in particular, who goes by the name of Feedback and takes the show a little too seriously, for him it seems as if the show is something very different.

Despite everything in his adult life that has conspired to kill his childhood dreams, despite everything in the realities of a world that has clearly not given him what he wants and needs, despite all the daily compromises that have forced him into adulthood, there is a whole other part of him too, that is no longer a child but some bizarre stunted adolescent fantasy, a projection of his imagined salvation from whatever existential dilemma plagued his youth and never properly faded. Watching the show, watching his facial expressions, his reactions, his naive faith (best compared to the Dwight Shrute character on The Office), the duplicity of his life reads in his eyes. At some level, it seems as if he struggles more with his secret identity than with his superhero self.

So I watch the show. And now, like all true believers, I have begun developing my other self, in case 1) they make a second season of the show or 2) the world ever needs a costumed hero.

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“Raspberry”

Historically, I’ve been a fair to poor speller. I’ve always chalked it up to skipping third grade, which I somehow managed to convince myself was the “learn to spell” grade (I place that phrase in quotes because it was my most recent google search). My problems have mostly centered around homophones and double letters, though I’ve been known to come up with some flat out ridiculous spellings.

The root of all of this: mostly intellectual laziness mixed with the fact that I was part of that first generation that grew up with personal computers. Even before I really learned to write (and by that I mean really learned to produce something cogent, or at least arguably so), my words were processed. The spelling was almost automatically checked and corrected without me having to ever get it right, just so long as I was close enough, and so I learned not to spell, but to be close enough. It’s quite pitiful really.

The reason I bring this up now is because when I documented my recent baking experience with the chocolate torte, I realized to my surprise that I had spent 29 years on this planet without learning how to spell raspberry. At first I typed ‘rasberry’, but that didn’t look right, then I tried two ‘s’es, but that wasn’t any better. I was debating the merits of throwing a zed in there (calling it ‘zed’ is my nod to the British, by the way) when I decided to just look it up and boy was I surprised. A ‘p’? Who the hell pronounces it that way? Rasp-berry? Strange, maybe the little faceted, knobby shape looked something like a rasp? So, I was simultaneously astounded by the spelling, and of course my ignorance, which is always a nice moment.

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