Saturday, July 30, 2011

It Makes Me Think of Summer

Summer.  Warm weather.  Long days.  And food.  Food.  Food!

I love the bounty of the summer harvest.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, nectarines, corn, peaches, and more and more tomatoes!

So what's a girl to do with so much fresh veg?  Why make a pasta dish of course!  Greek/Mediterranean pasta salads scream of summer, so I eat as much of it as I can when tomatoes are at their peak.  First let's take a quick gander at how we should build a foundation for this amazing pasta salad...

There are so many types of pastas, so how do you choose the right kind?  The shape and size of pasta determines what kind of dish and sauce it is supposed to be used for.  The more nooks and crannies there are, e.g. gigli (lily-shaped) & quadrefiore, the heavier and meatier the sauce should be---and not particularly ideal for pasta salads.  For more dainty noodles like angel hair, sauces should be lighter and probably meatless, which is why it is so deliciously ideal for a coating with fruity olive oil and tossed with chopped tomatoes, basil, and garlic.  Short noodles like farfalle and penne are good in pasta salads where the other ingredients in the dish are roughly the same size as the noodle.

But if you get lazy, I say angel hair is best because the noodles are so skinny that they cook in about half the time of other pastas.  The less time I have to stand over a pot of boiling water fishing out noodles to test for that "al dente" perfection, the better.  Once the pasta is cooked, I drain it and immediately drizzle it with olive oil to prevent it from sticking in one giant clump.

My pasta salads always include tomatoes (I prefer grape tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes), cucumbers (hothouse, English, or Persian), and the best extra virgin olive oil I can get my hands on.  I usually try to get feta cheese in there, and generally match my feta to whatever else I'm including in the dish.  Imported Greek feta tends to be very briny can be overwhelming when paired with green olives, kalamata olives, or capers.  I usually try to get a milder feta such as French, Bulgarian, or domestic feta.  Don't get me wrong, I love Greek feta, but I try to dial down the salt content where I can.  I mostly just use the feta for the creamy texture it gets with olive oil when it's allowed to warm up to room temp.

Depending on what else I have, I will toss in some combination of bell peppers, roasted peppers, pepperoncinis, capers, dill, garlic, and lemon juice.  It's very forgiving and is a great way to use up random veg you might have lurking in the fridge.

Another recipe I love to indulge in, especially during the summer when our lemon tree is in overdrive, is baking fish with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Most fish fillets bake in about 10 minutes which is great.  After I pull the fish out of the oven, I squeeze some lemon juice over it and add chopped dill.  For plating, I usually add a couple of slices lemon.

I love summer food and have even been self-indulgent enough to sneak away at lunch with coworkers to picnic by the bay and watch the planes across the water at SFO.

You'll have to excuse my coworker's gross feet ;)  But seriously, nothing makes me think of summer more than pasta salad, delicious baked fish, a side of marinated olives, and nectarines for dessert.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Muslim athletic wear

I'm counting down the weeks until I leave for my vacation.  September 8th cannot come soon enough!  This is what my itinerary looks like:
  • Arrive at Imam Khomeini Airport (by myself!) with my hijab and manteau already on, of course
  • Hang in Tehran for a day
  • Head to Kerman with a stop in Rayen and Mahan
  • Kerman for a 'lil while, then go to Yazd
  • Shiraz (hells yeah) with an excursion to Persepolis (I loooooove ruins) and Isfahan
  • Go back to Tehran en route to Tabriz (argued to be the original "garden of eden" per historical landmarks) to see the Caspian Sea
  • Kandovan to check out some crazy rock formations
  • Anzali
  • Back to Tehran, again, to fly back to Amsterdam and hang out with my long-time friend Ernst and his girlfriend
  • Fly over to England to spend time in Norwich (Eastern part of England) to see my bff Aly and her boyfriend, check out my old study abroad alma mater, and re-visit my old haunts.  Bell Hotel pub anyone?  And who wants to go see "The Inbetweeners" at the cinema?!  Maybe clubbing on Prince of Wales Road?  Who knows :)  Oh, I at least need to make up for my lack of consumption of Früli beer, Strongbow, and Snakebite & Black.  Yummy.  Oh yeah, and plenty of high tea.
  • Fly back to Amsterdam to see Ernst and his gf again.  Must hit up: Museum Vrolik (creepy medical anomalies pickled in formaldehyde), the Resistance Museum, and eat copious amounts of Turkish pizza, frites, stroopwafels, doner kebabs, and much more.
Iran is going to be pretty darn warm while I'm there, despite the fact that Europe will be freezing.  That's going to make for some pretty interesting packing since I'm bound and determined to only bring over one carry-on.  That doesn't mean that I'm not going to check bags on the way back; I plan on doing tons of shopping in Iran and Norwich.

Anywho, curiosity got the best of me and I was dying to see what was considered "acceptable" beach and pool-wear in Iran.  I'm staying at international hotels (3-5 stars) but I'm pretty sure I have to follow Eastern dress code.  Most of the hotels have gyms and pools, and of course pools are great for cardio, but can you imagine me swimming in one of these?? 

Let's just say I don't plan on doing any ocean or pool swimming while I'm on vacation.  Even the gym clothes women are supposed to wear are pretty ridiculous.

How are you supposed to run on a treadmill with that on?!  I plan on packing my black lululemon leggings, a couple of tanks and sports bras to do plenty of pilates and yoga in my hotel room.  I'd likely end up in Evin prison if I wore my workout clothes publicly:

I'll probably wait on serious cardio workouts until I get to Norwich to use University of East Anglia's Sportspark (and pay their ridiculous drop-in fees).  When I was a UEA student I was utterly shocked that  Sportspark access was NOT free for students.  How are broke-ass students, myself on a full ride, supposed to come up with the pocket money to pay for outlandish gym fees?!  By the end of my first week I was crying inside that I was 6,000+ miles away from my beloved and *free* RIMAC gym at UCSD and wouldn't see it for another 12 months.  Lucky for me I accidentally lost about 10 pounds that year, probably due the fact that I was absolutely freezing the entire time having spent two years acclimating to La Jolla's sunshine and 72 F year-round weather.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!  I have a few projects in the works that I'm hoping to post very shortly.  I have been on a sewing spree lately as I'm preparing for my vacation this fall to...wait for it...wait for it...IRAN!  I know, people think I'm either insane or I'm going to end up in Evin prison, but I am going as part of a cultural/historical trip.  Anyone who knows me knows I love me some ancient ruins!

In preparation for Iran, I need to compile my Muslim-friendly, travel-friendly wardrobe.  Women must wear loose clothing, i.e. nothing body-hugging; tops or manteaus (kind of a shirtdress-overcoat) that reach at least the mid thigh; upper arms must be covered; absolutely no décolletage showing; and finally, a hijab is required to be worn by women at all times in public places, as dictated by law.  The hijab, or head scarf, must cover a woman's hair and neck and is traditionally seen as a symbol of respect for God, but since the Iranian "revolution of values", it has also come to symbolize, by some, oppression and male hegemony.  I have been making my way through a long reading list of books on Iran, and it is very interesting to read how widely views vary regarding the dress code, moreover the role of women in society.

As a side note for friends who may be reading this: I am entering the country as part of a tour group with an approved visa already in my passport, as required by law for all US citizens.  All tour groups must be registered with the government, and all participants of said tours are forbidden to talk about politics.  All us visitors will be chaperoned at all times to make sure we aren't running amok spying for the CIA.  ...The entire Iranian government seems to believe all American citizens are spies for the CIA or outside agents tied to the CIA.  It's kind of ridiculous.  Thankfully from what I have come to understand, the Iranian public doesn't seem to follow the same mindset as its rulers...

I have purchased all the sewing patterns I should need *I think* for my vacation clothes.  I have already made one top that I have been sporting around work, but I'm not entirely sure I'm going to bring it with me.  I have plenty of other options, but I am trying to keep my luggage down to one carry-on bag.  Not an easy feat since I'm also going to be stopping over to visit friends in Amsterdam and Norwich, England (vastly differing climates and fashions from Iran) on my way home.  I hit up the Nordstrom annual sale yesterday and ordered shoes that I'll be taking on my trip (plus some extras:).  I was surprised that on only the second day of the sale they somehow were out of every single shoe size in every color of every shoe I wanted to try.  Lame!  I guess I should have taken advantage of the pre-sale shopping for Nordstrom cardholders.  Oops.

In summary: expect lots of sewing in the coming weeks as I prepare for my trip!