Monday, July 16, 2012

Grilling Up the Rainbow

Perhaps the new It Dinner of the moment around our house is grilled panzanella.

There are innumerable variations on this Italian summertime classic, but today I'm sharing with you my favorite. While it was initially built on a foundation of onions, panzanella is now considered to be a tomato and bread salad. My take on it opts for feta rather than mozzarella, which I find to not pack enough flavor.

I love STRONG flavor profiles served in rustic-y kinds of ways. The zucchini runneth over in our house during the summer, so it is entirely apropos that I'd chop it up and serve it en mass.

Without further ado: Grilled Plumage Panzanella

There's no science to this, only to create an equal ratio of each vegetable. The recipe below makes for 6 to 8 GENEROUS side servings

2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 zucchini
1 or 2 yellow squash
4 or 5 slices of day old Italian bread, about 1/2" thick
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, chopped
1/3C fresh basil, chiffonade
1/3C fresh mint, chopped
4oz feta cheese
1/3C olive oil
1/4C balsamic vinegar

Core, seed, and slice bell peppers into quarters. Chop the ends off of squashes, slice in half lengthwise. Place vegetables and bread on a sheet pan, oil lightly and season with salt and pepper.

photo courtesy of Camille Styles)
Be sure to use a light hand with the olive oil, as you will dress the salad with more later.

Grill vegetables until they begin to char- about 4 minutes on each side over a medium high flame. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, place halved tomatoes, basil, mint, feta cheese and 1/4C pitted and halved black olives if you so choose. I detest olives and will vomit if you place them in this salad, but I guess I'll let you make the call.

Also add the cucumber- you could use a seedless English one, but I find them to be overpriced and bitter. Instead, peel a regular ole garden cuc, core (remove seeds), and chop.

After the vegetables have cooled, chop them roughly and add to the bowl. Tear the bread slices and add. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and dress the salad. Season lightly with more pepper (about 1/4t) and salt (about 1/8t, as the feta adds a salty component already).

Tonight, I served this salad with a steak and after a 6am workout, a full day of work, running errands to the granite showroom and the cabinet maker with my Mom, it was PERFECTION. Simple, rustic, flexible (google "Panzanella" and you'll see how endless the possibilities are) and relatively healthy. Minimal mess and vegetable leftovers for the compost bin.

An Earth Mama's wet dream.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Venti Coffee and Kindness

Last Tuesday was a half day of work for me. As Chris's car was in the shop, I took him to work at 7am as any dutiful wife girlfriend would do. After dropoff, I whipped into the Starbucks Drive Thru line for what was intended to be a quickie cup of coffee before hitting the gym.

The length of the line was long and its forward movement slow. I began growing impatient but stayed ferociously committed to a Venti Iced Coffee, no syrup, two Sweet & Low. As a pickup truck towards the front of the line seemed to be place an eternally long order, I stared at my phone and considered Facebooking how freakin PISSED OFF it makes me when people order more than two drinks at a drive thru.

It must've been 10 minutes before I arrived at the window. Wearing my best Oh No, I'm Not Irritated face, I reached out to had the barista a five dollar bill, only to have her refuse it. "The person in front of you actually paid for your drink" she said.

Starbucks Coffee CompanyWhile I've experienced the kindness of that moment before, that was a particularly special morning. I handed the barista my five anyway and told her to pay for the person behind me and keep the three bucks change for herself. She smiled giddily- an older women with what looked to be a few tears welling up in her eyes. "Incredible" she said. She went on to tell me that the delay in the line was because the SIX CARS in front of me had all paid for one another's coffee.

As the seventh person hoping to grace someone else's morning with a little generosity, I drove away floored by the kindness of strangers. My favorite aspect of this so-called "drive thru difference" is that there is NOTHING IN IT for the person paying- you drive off without the person behind you even knowing you just did something kind.

Kindness that does not seek reward is my favorite kind of kindness.

Friends & Warriors

Ode to My Best Friend

It says a lot about a person to possess long-standing friendships. This is Heather, who happens to have been my best friend since 1988. That's almost 25 years should your algebra be on vacation.

Often mistaken for sisters, she is, indeed, a sister. A girl that has been there when it was really good, really bad, and really ridiculous. She's the friend that takes me as I am, but doesn't beat around the bullshit bush.

We rode the school bus together and used to write down license plate numbers in case criminals were following us to school. We shared goalie gloves during soccer tournament snowstorms. We secretly put Bacardi in our "virgin" daiquiris before packing them up as roadies en route to early morning softball games.

She laughs when I'm funny and rolls her eyes when I'm outrageous. Which is often.

I admire her vim and vigor- her hilarity- her no fluff approach to life. She is tenacious, adventurous, willing to try.

Whether it's Warrior Dash or strolling the aisles of Target together or delivering me ice cream for an insanely terrible hangover, she's my Go To Gal. Ride or die.

To be jealous of the complete badassness of such a friendship is only natural.

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