Marco recently made another recipe from our newest cookbook, “Ottolenghi The Cookbook”, salmon with red pepper and hazelnut salsa. It was excellent and perhaps the topic of a future post, but this is about the leftovers. We had some salmon, roasted red peppers and asparagus left over from the meal, and so he added them to our daily work salad. Each day we go to work, we take a salad that usually has the following ingredients: mixed greens, grape tomatoes, mozzarella, sunflower seeds, and either chicken or tuna pieces. At work we garnish with a simple olive oil balsamic vinaigrette and we have a delicious and nutritious lunch.
I know what your thinking, “a salad for lunch?, sounds boring!, won’t sustain me, I’ll need a piece of bread!” These are all the thoughts I used to have before we started doing this. Now, however, I look forward to lunch, I treasure the different textures and flavors of the foods, and I feel nourished and sustained for the rest of my work day.
This salad also facilitates a mindfulness practice when eating. It’s quite difficult to eat this meal while keeping up with computer work at the desk. Rather, it requires a pause from the hectic work-day, a move to an eating space, where the salad is garnished and mixed to fully coat with the vinaigrette. It fosters a feast for the eyes as I take in all the beautiful colors. The fresh smells of the ingredients stimulate the senses promoting a fixed presence. The various textures gently tease and delight the auditory palette. And, the diverse flavors nourish the salt, sweet, fat pleasure centers of the taste buds. All five senses take part in this lunch!
I have a weakness for salty chips. I have a hard time stopping eating them. The crunch and the salt of a corn chip makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And, it’s even better topped with a home-made guacamole!
The only strategy that keeps me from dis-health in this regard is the out-of-reach one. This is the approach that says, if it isn’t in the house, I won’t eat it. So, we never buy corn chips unless we are making guacamole for guests or to satisfy as a once-in-awhile treat. We also avoid that whole isle in the grocery store and pretty much practice the healthy living suggestion of avoiding most of the central isles of the food store in favor of the perimeters.
It helps when doing the shopping to have a list. This supports a thoughtful shopping trip, with planned meals and purchasing the necessary items for the menus. The list also serves to distract from the isles that are best avoided.
If and when I’m tempted to grab the bag of salty crunch, it usually helps to do some thinking, even if only for several seconds. This activates the self-regulatory part of the brain, the part that allows us to think through the future outcomes of our actions. It mindfully affords us the opportunity to respond to the cravings and not to react. Our unhealthy habits live in the reactive habit cycles of the brain.
My solution also works, in part, because of one of the realities of cravings, they fade away. Just like the waves of the ocean moving towards the beach, gaining strength, rising, cresting, crashing on the sand, and then receding, our cravings build and reach a high point, but fall away with time. So, if the chips aren’t in the house, I’m less likely to jump up and get some when the wave of desire comes crashing.
For those times when you mindfully and thoughtfully choose to indulge in those salty crunchy corn chips, here’s my way of making the Guac!
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 of small onion
- 4-6 cherry tomatoes, diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- squeeze of 1/2 of a lime
- salt and pepper
- mash the avocado, leaving some chunks (depending on your preference)
- add all the other ingredients, mixing together
- adjust the quantities based on taste
Before I met Marco I visited Italy. I mostly stayed in the Tuscany region, enjoying Florence, Arezzo, the hill towns of Chianti, Siena, San Gimignano. I also ventured a little South for a quick trip to Rome and Orvieto and enjoyed basking in the hot sulfur springs of Saturnia. I now know that these places are some of the most beautiful in all of Italy! But, when I returned home, I decided that I would be fine if I never returned to Italy.
My passion was France! I spoke the French language, loved all the places I visited in France, and, perhaps most importantly, I loved French food and wine. Even the leisurely pace of eating a French meal, beginning with a first course of salad or other starter, followed by a main course then dessert, fed my “foodie” passion. So, I thought, why go to Italy (which, for sure is beautiful with great food and wine), when I can go to France and have equal beauty and food and wine but also speak the language!
Then, almost 20 years ago, I met Marco at a conference in Sweden and my life from that point on changed in so many ways! I ended a long-term relationship, sold my half of a house, shared “custody” of our dog, and embarked on a shared journey that led me to now. Needles to say, I no longer speak French that well but am fluent in Italian. I travel regularly to our home away from home in Cremona, Italy, and I love cooking and enjoying Italian food.
The passion for French foods remains and I found a local way to feed that desire, The Market Restaurant in Annisquam, Massachusetts (click here). Annisquam is a small section of Gloucester and the restaurant is nestled in Lobster cove. We started with the fried soft-shell crab and the tuna tartar in the endive with a citrus vinaigrette. I had the pan-seared scallops with in a lobster beurre blanc pictured above. The dessert was yummy too and I was so lost in it that I forgot to photograph it.
I always love when I can get a vegetable into my main dish, especially when it comes to pasta. So, here’s a simple and quick pasta dish that incorporates some zucchini. I also like this particular one because it uses the subtle spice saffron with its delicate flowery flavor. The combination of ingredients allows the taste of the shrimp and zucchini to shine as the saffron adds a gentle sweetness along with the beautiful yellow color.
Also, if you search shrimp or zucchini in my blog search feature, you’ll find a couple of other variations on this theme!
Ingredients (based on 2):
- 12 medium peeled, deveined, uncooked shrimp
- 1 zucchini sliced Julienne
- 3/4 cup diced tomatoes (or I used our fresh canned tomato sauce)
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pinch of saffron threads
- while the pasta is cooking in generously salted water (click here to read more about salting the water), heat the EVOO on medium high and gently sauté the garlic and shrimp for 1-2 minutes
- add the tomatoes and saffron
- turn heat to low and let simmer until the pasta is al dente
- combine ingredients and add starchy water only if you need to adjust the consistency