Monthly Archives: June 2009

cucumber cool.

This past weekend, my mom brought me the largest cucumber I have ever seen.  I remember someone in Israel telling me that American produce scared him, and cucumbers should be small and eaten whole, not engineered to the size of a baseball bat.  Enter the bat:

cucumber

This afternoon I used part of it in the most delicious, refreshing smoothie:

  • ~ a cup of frozen papaya
  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1″ cube ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 baseball bat-sized cucumber
  • big handful baby spinach

Blend blend blend to get this:

cucumber ginger smoothie

If you have a blender from say, Target, as I do, I would recommend chopping the cucumber and mincing the ginger first, just to help along the poor little machine.  The taste was smooth yet spicy – really wonderful for a warm summer day, before the skies opened up and drenched us.

Even though I got soaked in our daily rainstorm, I still decided on a cold soup for dinner.  My apartment doesn’t get a lot of air circulation, so I dried off quickly and got to work in the kitchen.

cucumber dill soup 

  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 c fresh dill
  • 2-3 T scallions
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 1/2 T evoo
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cayenne

Add all ingredients to the blender, and pulse away until smooth.

I added some hot sauce to mine and served it alongside crackers and a shockingly normal sized salad of white beans, cherry tomatoes, steamed spinach, olive oil, and Greek seasoning.  

crackers, cucumber soup, white bean salad

This was such ideal summertime fare.  What’s your favorite warm-weather meal?

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french lunch.

One afternoon last summer, I was enjoying lunch with my old boss, who had just returned from a visit to our magazine’s headquarters in Paris.  She shared with me her experience dining with the French staff.

postcards

At precisely 1 PM, every member of the staff, young, old, female, and male, exited their offices and filed down the stairwell.  On the second floor of their building was an expansive, sunny atrium, doubling as a cafe and meeting point for workers and their guests.  Along one wall lay a long salad bar, where fresh ingredients and warm breads lay in mounds for the taking.  Chefs plated finely cooked meats on the adjoining side, and in the room’s center sat several bowls of yogurt, granola, and fruits.  Next to that, a shorter table displayed fine pastries and chocolates, individually portioned onto palm sized dishware.

My boss observed as each of the women she had met strolled throughout the room, creating balanced platters from every station, dessert included.

She was invited to a table where the magazine’s staff dined together.  Over the next hour, they discussed fashion, food, and Parisian life, never once commenting on the work they were doing, the amount of food they were eating, or the size of their waists.

Some left food on their plates; some did not.  Each of them ate slowly and thoughtfully.

Following lunch, the group climbed one flight of stairs to an outdoor terrace, where they enjoyed cappuccinos, espressos, and further conversation.  Finally, after a ninety minute dining period, they returned to the office.

paris at night

My boss and I spent a long time discussing what to us was a very foreign ritual.  Prague illustrated to me a far more American sensibility than a European one; with a history of betrayal by their European neighbors, many Czechs I knew looked instead towards the US for inspiration.  Coffee to-go, fast food, and long work days without lunch breaks became increasingly common sights throughout my time there.

There are many things I love about my American roots, but the presentation of food and health in our society is not one of them.  People have proselytized over the adage “French women don’t get fat” for years.  I don’t pretend to know the answer to the whys, but I always observed that very few European women display a negative relationship with food, while likely more than half the female population of the US most definitely do.

Health is about far more than food.  Taking my time with each meal allows each one to be a form of relaxation and delight, rather than an enemy or nuisance.  I have both my parents and my time abroad to thank for my ability to treat food as an enjoyable, essential part of life.  But I’m far too aware that in this country, I remain in the minority.


Do you think the American lifestyle makes good health impossible?

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simplicity.

After my flavor extravaganza yesterday, I’ve craved simplicity all day today.  I like to enjoy both ends of the spectrum, and I’ve found that balancing them is key.  Each type of meal always allows me to appreciate the other a bit more.

So, dinner tonight was very, very easy.

I started with half an avocado sprinkled with sea salt and pepper.

avocado

And then had cold quinoa (I promise it’s under there) with loads of raw veggies.  

quinoa and vegetables

And I’m having this for dessert:

tea, blueberries, almond butter

Tea, blueberries, and a spoonful of raw almond butter.  

Nothing fancy, no seasoning, no garnishes.  Just fresh, whole foods, just the way I like it.


Do you prefer your meals simple or elaborate?

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americana.

Last week I was feeling green, but this one has to be all about the red, white, and blue.  My week leading up to the fourth will inevitably include…

strawberries and blueberries

Summer berries, in copious amounts.

beach outfit

Beach attire.

peppers, tomatoes, yogurt dip

Small snack plate: red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, Greek yogurt + dill dip.

beach bag, fruit, sunglasses

Beach essentials: fresh fruit and sun protection.

quaker oats

Morning oats, of course.

yoga supplies

Yoga, on my new mat.

beans, barley, chili powder

Dinner, perhaps: red beans, barley, chili powder brought home from Istanbul.


How will you celebrate this weekend?

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tabla.

When it comes to dining, my ideal restaurants fall into two categories.  In the first, the dishes consist of clean, natural flavors brought out by a simple cooking process.  In the second, the preparations are more complex, featuring several flavors united in surprising and uncommon ways.

Tabla most definitely falls into the second category.  Described as New American cuisine infused with an Indian flavor, dining here was an opportunity to experience a wide array of unique, bold flavor combinations.  Watermelon curry?  Rhubarb napoleon?  Reading the menu was akin to reading foodie poetry.

[Sorry for the poor photo quality – restaurant lighting is always less than ideal]

tabla menu

Diners are given two choices at Tabla – either enjoy a five course tasting menu or select three courses a la carte.  My family never does tastings, because then we’d all be eating the same thing (boring!).

We started with a bottle of Loring Wine Company pinot noir, which had a nice spicy finish:

loring wine company pinot noir

I spotted a dish on the vegetarian tasting menu that didn’t appear to be offered a la carte, but the chefs were very accommodating and willingly made it for me.  I always appreciate flexibility, and as a result, I was able to enjoy this as an appetizer:

tabla: asparagus and polenta

Fresh roasted asparagus surrounding semolina polenta cooked with kokum and coconut milk.  This was so good.  I can’t even describe.

As an entree, I chose the soft shell crab, cooked in a coriander broth with green mango and spring onions:

tabla: softshell crab

I somehow lost the photo of my dessert, but I chose pineapple croquettes with almond butter (!), pink peppercorn ice cream, and a ginger lemongrass sauce.  We all agreed that the desserts were perfectly portioned – not stingy, but just perfectly sized to enjoy a few bites and cap off the meal.

Then we were presented with these:

tabla: chocolatesBlame my sister for one of the missing white chocolates – she got a little eager before I had a chance to snap the photo.  Also, those chocolates on the end were filled with halva, which is possibly one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever seen or tasted.

Being that it was Sunday night, the restaurant was relatively quiet, and we enjoyed our meal upstairs at a cozy corner table.  The waitstaff was attentive but never pretentious or overbearing, so the experience never felt rushed.  We all had a lovely and very tasty evening.  I would definitely recommend this one!

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family fun.

My parents are currently on their way into the city for one of our family’s traditional once a month Sundays.

mom and dad in vienna

These usually consist of several predictable parts:

One: Parents arrive with an oversized suitcase full of groceries and Costco items.  They are amazing. [Today I hear we’re getting a tub of hummus, a quart of blueberries, Greek yogurt, and several more mystery items.]

Two:  Parents demand a nosh to tide them over for the afternoon.  I eat lunch, and they eat some hummus. [I made soup from this dinner – it is awesome.]

playbills

Three: Family attends a play together.  [South Pacific today!  It’s at Lincoln Center Theatre, which is one of my favorite venues in the city.]

Four:  Family wastes some time by aimlessly wandering the streets.  [Please don’t rain today.]

mom and ally in ogunquit Five:  Family arrives (early) to a reservation at a restaurant specializing in creative, nouvelle cuisine.  [Tabla.  So excited.] 

Six:  30 minutes later, we may have decided on wine, but are likely still debating the menu.  [I’ve already read the menu, and I still know this will be a 30 minute conversation.]

leslie and ally in prague

Seven:  Three hours later.  Yes, we’re still there.  [We like to dine.]

Eight:  Sister and Mom complain of being too full.  Dad and I are content.  [We have the big appetites.] 

lobster man

I love these days.

I’ll be back with a Tabla review later; in the meantime, what’s your favorite thing to do with your family?

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quick and easy.

Tonight was a definite “go-to” night.

I started with bulgur and garlic.

bulgur

Then tossed together some red beans and heaven vegetables: red pepper, cucumber, zucchini, and kalamata olives.  

beans and veggies

Topped with pine nuts, feta, lemon juice and zest, and balsamic vinegar.  

bulgur, beans, vegetables

Sometimes the thrown-together meals are the best of all.

It’s funny that a few years ago, if I hadn’t planned ahead, I would either have had pasta or ordered takeout.  Now I consider something like this an “easy” meal.  And it is easy, perhaps because healthy eating became not only a habit, but a way of life.  


Is health a way of life for you?  Or do you have to work for it?

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Filed under dinner