Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

South and East the flames are licking the sides of the mountains, threatening homes and filling the air with smoke that makes its way to my house. Only the smoke. There is a thin layer of ash everywhere. For us it's an eye irritant and causes an occasional sneeze or cough. We are fortunate. It's hot. It's calm. The sky is an eerie hazy color. Great sunsets must be nature saying she's sorry for all the discomfort around us. The other plus, So Cal cools down every night so everyone sleeps well. That is everyone far from the fires.

This morning I started my vegan day with leftovers to make the "Old Dutchman's Salad". The beginning was a great green salad: lettuce, spinach, tomato, sliced mushroom, sliced carrot, chopped celery and avocado, leftover from last nights dinner. Hunting around the overstuffed frig I found about 6 black olives and claimed them for my own. Then a little Swiss chard that had been cooked with fennel, some brown rice, steamed broccoli and I topped it with a few shakes of olive oil, an equal dose of rice vinegar and a handful of walnuts. Has anyone made a machine, perhaps resembling a microwave, into which I could put this salad, press a button and read its nutritional values? It looks pretty healthy and tastes great.

Air conditioning at my house is open windows and ceiling fans. So we all take advantage of the morning and the evening at home, find air conditioning in our chores in the heat of the day. When One One and One Two were young it was the grocery store, the library and a museum. Nothing much has changed. They are still my favorite destinations on hot days, rainy days and any day.

My plan for the day is to dust and mop a bit. To lift some ash off all of the surfaces, so I start early knowing that it will be hot soon enough. Dusting and sweeping and mopping are not my favorite things to do. I have to play games, offer myself rewards, set a timer. Oh the human experience. It's a puzzle.

I will head to the air conditioned library and get home in time to reunite with my housemates and have a little dinner and enjoy the great late afternoon in the yard, expanding the vegetable garden.

At lunch time I am alone, housemates off on their individual errands and work and school. I'm here for my work until 3. I found a brown rice tortilla at the health food store and I'm anxious to try it. It was in the refrigerator section so it feels a little stiff. When I brought it home, I put it right into my refrigerator. It's by "Food for Life" and comes in a resealable zip lock bag. 6 gluten free 9" tortillas, each separated with a waxy paper. I peel off a tortilla, splash it with a little water and warm it up in the microwave.
Then I smear it with a layer of warm refried beans (vegan), some salsa, a little onion and on one half only, about 10 little yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden, sliced in half. Back to the microwave to cook just a little
When it comes out of the microwave it's soft without being fragile. It feels too stiff for a burrito roll-up, so I ditch that idea and fold it in half like a taco.

With a spinach and avocado salad, a glass of ice water with lemon, it's lunch.

The dusting is a shock. Dust should be brown. This is black. I decide that I can't stop until it's done and turn on Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" read by Lisette Lecat. A reader can make or break a book on tape. This reader is a winner. I find myself looking for more dust, not wanting to let go of the story. Dusting is a quiet activity. Sweeping and Mopping too. I don't have carpets and last month my vacuum cleaner went out with the garbage. She had served me well for many years. It became a chore to find new bags for her and anyway, her inhale was weak.

"I Suck" she teased
then coughed and wheezed.
"OK", I said.
"I'll sweep instead."

I didn't make it to the library or the grocery store. I was sent to the local B&B hardware for garden supplies. Someone else was doing the hard labor, I was more than happy to be the supply shopper.

Dinner started with an heirloom tomato from the neighbor and an avocado. The main course was Toasted Almond and Citrus Quinoa.

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is an ancient Peruvian broad leaf plant. It's seed head resembles millet, but flatter and smaller. It was a staple in the Inca diet 400 years ago, give or take one or two. It's an endurance food, believed to oxygenate the blood. High in calcium, phosphorus, iron, most B vitamins, zinc and lysine, provides all eight essential amino acids (this means it's a complete protein). It has more protein than any other grain. So there. Great for vegan day.

This recipe I found in the June/July 2001 "The Herb Companion" magazine. The citrus/tarragon flavor dominates. The almond crunch is a contrast to the texture of the quinoa. The spinach disappears except it does add nutrition. This meal is full of nutrition.

How to cook the quinoa.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.
1 cup white or black quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Rinse quinoa in a strainer if you didn't buy Red Mill Quinoa that has been pre-washed. In a 2 quart pot, bring the water to a boil and stir in the still-wet quinoa. Simmer, uncovered over medium heat until cooked, about 12 - 15 minutes. When it is cooked a small white C will surround each grain. Let it cool to room temperature before assembling the salad. Now all you need to do is assemble the salad. Serve at room temperature or cold.

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold-pressed olive oil
2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/3 cup chopped fresh spinach
2 oranges, peeled
1/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds
2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

This is a refreshing salad at the end of a hot day.

No comments:

Post a Comment