Sunday, February 15, 2015

Forbidden Fruit

You were wearing a black Journey t-shirt; and I was in a striped navy, grey and pink dress with pointy flats purposefully chosen to coordinate with my Hobo clutch.

You probably don't remember that part, though; just like you probably don't remember my name (Diana), or that I live in West Hollywood and don't usually get over to the Westside, let alone all the way to Venice, on a Friday night.

Unless, of course, I'm provoked.

Or a friend sends an Uber with the directive, "Be ready in 10 minutes."

What you likely remember is that we sang a duet of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid before we'd even formally introduced ourselves, or perhaps considered whether it would be appropriate to sing Disney in a restaurant bar not outfitted for karaoke.

You probably remember that we inappropriately giggled like 12-year-olds over the size of a poor, unsuspecting bar goer's Adam's Apple.

And you might remember that after we chortled through the lyrics to "Les Poissons," I started to refer to you as Mufasa. (Because Prince Eric, or your real name, Clark, would have been too obvious.)

The whole interaction was easy and relaxed and fun and everything that IT should be.

You know, that connection/chemistry/attraction thing that we are all trying so hard to find on OkCupid/Tinder/Coffee Meets Bagel through gritted teeth, forced conversations and far too much alcohol.

Which is why it was so startling to find IT there, in the middle of the bar at Scopa Italian Roots, while others around us were fumbling through opening lines and throwing back Bullocks-Wilshire cocktails. They, those fumblers, had nothing on us. Mufasa and Sebastian (Ariel or Diana would have been too obvious).

It was irritatingly cute and perfect... except for the minor insignificant detail that you were on a first date with someone else.

And of course she had to be all sweet with her J. Crew necklace and black date night dress, as she insisted that my friend and I stay, talk and keep intruding on your conversation like it wasn't the most annoying thing in the world. And you were chivalrous and found her a bar stool to sit on because her feet hurt, and when it got late, and we ran out of Disney songs to sing, you said you had to get her home without a hint of an ulterior motive polluting your voice. 

And just like that my heart broke into a million pieces for what might have been if you weren't a good guy, and I weren't... me

So, you walked away, and I stayed. And we missed our chance.

* * *

It's probably too late to be sharing these two recipes that call for pomegranate seeds in the precise moment that the season is coming to a conclusive end. In fact it's rather cruel of me to be mentioning them to you at all - parading them before you with the unspoken taunt, "You can look, but you can't touch." 

I fully realize it should be all things blood oranges and tangerines and pomelos at this juncture of winter, but if you can still find a vibrant red pomegranate at your farmers' market, I command you to make both of these dishes immediately.

Before you, you know, miss your chance.

Avocado Toast with Pomegranate, Lime, Feta, and Cilantro

1 piece of thickly sliced bread
1/2 medium avocado
Juice from 1/4 a lime
Salt, pepper
Crumbled feta
Pomegranate seeds
Cilantro leaves

Toast bread.

Scoop avocado into a bowl with lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Smash with a fork until relatively smooth.

Spread avocado over toasted bread. Sprinkle with feta, pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Pomegranate and Avocado
Serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
Salt, pepper
Honey lime dressing
Zest of 1 lime
1 small bunch of cilantro, minced
1 14-ounce black beans, drained and rinsed well
4-6 radishes, sliced into thin half-moons
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Arugula or other greens
1 avocado, sliced
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Honey Lime Dressing
Juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
Salt, pepper

Combine ingredients in small bowl. Whisk together until well-incorporated.

* * *

In a medium pot, bring 1 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa, season with salt, and simmer, covered, until water has absorbed (approximately 20-25 minutes). Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes.

Transfer quinoa to a large bowl. Add the lime zest, dressing, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Use a fork to stir the ingredients together. Let cool in the fridge while prepping the other ingredients.

Once cooled to room temperature, toss the quinoa with the cilantro, followed by the black beans, radish slices, pomegranate seeds, and arugula. Serve topped with slices of avocado and the toasted pepitas.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Easy Does It

It's been 39 days since my last real run, and 72 since I sustained "the injury."

The funny thing, or rather, not funny thing, is I felt incredible in the moment when it was happening. It was like one of those poignant Nike ads where all you hear is the runner's breath as she's striding down an isolated trail with her blonde pony tail swinging behind her like Wonder Woman's cape. I was in Phoenix for Thanksgiving, and whether fueled by two helpings of my sister-in-law's righteous pumpkin bread pudding or energized by a fresh context outside my everyday, I felt like a freaking gazelle.

So much so that I began fantasizing about seriously training again - running a half marathon and actually racing it, recapturing a part of myself that I thought I had abandoned when I metaphorically hung up my spikes ten years ago after a less than stellar final collegiate cross-country performance. I pictured seven minute splits. I pictured early mornings cruising past stroller-pushing joggers on the Santa Monica Bike Path. I pictured my dang pony tail declaring, "Eat my dust" to everyone I passed.

And then life happened.

What I originally attributed to soreness from running longer and harder than I normally do, turned into a nagging, sharp pain in my right achilles that I stubbornly continued to ignore because I'm me, and I'm invincible, and obviously a gazelle. Even when I finally decided to "let it rest," I took only two days off before diving right back into my regular exercise regimen.

As I grimaced through a 35-minute run on New Year's Eve morning, I finally acknowledged and accepted what I had intuitively known the first moment I'd felt it. (Because I, you know, read about it on WebMD.)

I had to stop.

There are certain things you realize when you can't do something you love. Namely, how much you really do love that thing, but also how paramount it is to your sanity, sense of self, and, perhaps most significantly, sense of worth.

Fortunately, I've also discovered that public pools that don't feel too public do exist in Los Angeles, and for $15 a month, I can bring back my college coach's preferred form of cross-training, the very glamorous pastime of aqua jogging. While 40-50 minutes of running in place in a therapy lane occupied by women more than twice my age is not exactly worthy of a Nike ad, it's something and has been, more or less, what's kept me from cutting my ear off during this whole ordeal.

Even so, the thing that has been most surprising to me throughout these past six weeks is that I actually am capable of being a patient person. As much as I want to tear the band-aid off, lace up my hot pink sneaks and be a freaking gazelle again, I am listening to my body -- and bonding with 70-year-olds over my new one-piece Target swimming suits in the process. (They approve.)

Ultimately, I know the end result will be worth the annoyance of this current period of physical restraint, not all unlike this slow-roasted chicken that I've been meaning to tell you about for five weeks.

I hope you find it worth the wait (even if you didn't know you were actually waiting for it).

Slow-roasted Herbed Chicken
Adapted from Bon Appetit via The Wednesday Chef

Notes: I waited months to make this chicken for the first time - mostly because life and quinoa kept getting in the way. I finally found an afternoon/night where I was capable of lingering around the house for a few hours early last month, and, as Louisa from The Wednesday Chef promised, this rotisserie-style "stratosphere-reaching" chicken delivered the knockout punch I was rabidly anticipating as it perfumed my apartment for three excruciating hours. I ate the leftovers for four days and then froze packets of residual pieces for literal (and metaphorical) rainy day chicken noodle soup. The final verdict here?  Find the time to make this. (P.S. The original recipe calls for potatoes that you roast alongside the chicken, but I opted for different accompaniments - an herbed quinoa pilaf and roasted cauliflower.)

1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram; plus 4 sprigs, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme; plus 4 sprigs, divided
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 3½–4 pound chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine fennel, red pepper flakes, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix together with a long-tonged fork, then add olive oil, stirring to combine.

Resist the urge to rinse your chicken (splattering potential germs all over your kitchen sink and surrounding counter services), and pat it dry with a paper towel. Using your hands, rub the herb oil mixture all over the outside/inside of the chicken. Stuff the inside with 2 sprigs marjoram, 2 sprigs thyme, the lemon quarters, and the garlic halves. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Place the remaining thyme and marjoram in the center of an oven-safe baking dish (I used a sturdy Le Creuset situation). Set the chicken on top of the sprigs, and place in the oven. Roast, basting the chicken ever hour (I did this using a spoon to, well, spoon the jus over the chicken), until the skin is browned on the outside, and the temperature reads at least 165 degrees in the thickest area of the thigh.

Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before inhaling.