My Hot Weather Running Mantra

“At least it’s not Death Valley.” 

desert road

photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via photopin cc

Badwater has been on my mind lately.  I recently watched Running On the Sun, a documentary about the 1999 running of the Badwater Ultramarathon.  Coincidentally, I am also currently reading To the Edge by Kirk Johnson, a memoir about a New York Times journalist’s own attempt at running Badwater (which strangely enough takes place the same year that the documentary was filmed). And, of course, this year’s race took place just a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you that don’t know, Badwater is an ultramarathon of epic proportions.  135 miles through the hottest place on earth, in the middle of summer, from the lowest of low points in the Valley to the highest of highs at Mt Whitney, it is an endurance run of legend.

All of this focus on Badwater has seriously given me a whole new outlook on summer running.  When I’m out for a few good miles in 90 degree heat and glaring sun, with sweat dripping, skin sizzling, and hot air cycling through my lungs, I just tell myself, “At least it’s not Death Valley.”

It has a way of putting things into perspective.

No Grill? No Problem! : Roasted Corn and Yellow Pepper Relish

Let’s say that you’re a food-loving gal who enjoys cooking and serving up tasty food.

Let’s also say that you live in an apartment without the space or ability to have a proper grill of any sort.

Does this mean that you are not able to enjoy the delightful and delicious flavors of veggies cooked to a slightly blackened perfection?

complete relish

No.  No, it does not.

It absolutely does not, Mr. Cashier at a local store who, while attempting to make casual conversation during the scanning of my items falsely assumed I would be throwing my ears of corn on a grill and then failed to contain his disgust and disappointment when I explained that the only thing I would be firing up was my broiler.

Ahem.

Moving on.

roasted on cobs

Look, I know some people get really excited about summer grilling, but the reality is you, too, can enjoy similar flavors and goodness from the confines of your own indoor kitchen if outdoor grilling isn’t possible.  Don’t let grilling purists get you down.

There are, of course, stove top grill pans (cast iron is heavenly for this), but, my go-to device in these situations is my broiler.  The broiler can be a wonderful tool for charring, blackening, and crisping all manner of food.  I put my broiler to good use to whip up a simple, but very flavorful yellow vegetable relish.  This relish can be served as a side dish as is, on top of a taco salad (this was my modus operandi on this particular occasion), scooped up with tortilla chips, or I imagine it would even be good as a quesadilla filling or veggie dog topper.

So many darn possibilities.

with recipe book

However you eat it, you should know the flavors are fresh, bright, and scream of summer.  If you eat it as a side, you could also add in some chopped fresh tomatoes for an extra burst of flavor.

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Roasted Corn & Yellow Pepper Relish

My Own Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (or preferred butter or margarine), at room temperature
  • 1 tblspn fresh cilantro, minced
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks green onion, chopped
  • Juice from ½ a lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. To make the cilantro butter, combine the minced cilantro with the room temperature Earth Balance in a small bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to mix and press the cilantro into the Earth Balance, until combined well.  Set aside.
  2. Prepare your ears of corn by schucking and rinsing them.  Pat dry.  Then coat each ear with the cilantro butter.  Use a butter knife to spread the cilantro butter over all the ears, covering as thoroughly as you can.
  3. Slice the yellow pepper in two, lengthwise and remove the stem and membranes.
  4. Place cilantro-buttered corn and both halves of yellow pepper, skin side up, on a baking sheet.  With your broiler on high, place vegetables in the oven, about 2-3 inches from the heating element.  Broil for approximately 15 minutes, turning the ears of corn every 4-5 minutes so that each side gets time directly under the broiler.  Do not turn the pepper halves.
  5. Remove corn from oven and set aside to cool.  Remove pepper from oven and place it in a bowl.  Cover snugly with a tea towel and let it sit to steam for 10 minutes.
  6. Once cook enough to handle, cut the corn kernels from the cobs and place in a large bowl.  Then, remove your peppers from their bowl and peel off the skins.  (They should have steamed up loosely and peel off.  Sometimes running them under cool water can help remove the skins, as well.)
  7. When the skins are removed, chop the peppers and add to the bowl with the corn.
  8. Add your remaining ingredients: the diced jalapeno, garlic, green onions, lime juice, and salt and pepper.  Toss well to combine.  The relish tastes great at room temperature or can be warmed or cooled, depending on your final use of it.  I ate it all three ways!

The Oregon Berry Festival . . . and 10 lbs really is A LOT of fruit!

Last weekend was the Oregon Berry Festival and I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time there on the lovely warm Saturday afternoon we had.  This is a small festival, but what it lacked in size, it more than made up for in berry-goodness.

It was held in Portland’s Pearl District at the Ecotrust Building, a beautiful modern retail space with an outdoor courtyard-like area.   In the courtyard several local farmers were on hand to share their bounty.  Booths were seriously overflowing with berries of all kinds – raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, tayberries, and others I had never heard of!  It was a gorgeous sight.

Inside, the festival had space for vendors who weren’t growing the berries themselves, but who sure knew how to put them to good use.  Berry liqueur, cocktails, preserves, pastries, and juices were there for the tasting (and buying!).  

It was a really fantastic little piece of the local food scene and I took a home a delicious pint of raspberries which I later used to make a raspberry sauce for peach parfaits (more on those below).

I suspect the reason that I only bought one lone pint of berries at the festival was that I arrived there straight from a farmer’s market, where I had collected on a Groupon purchased a few weeks back.  The Groupon entitled me to 10 lbs of peaches and apricots from a local farmer.  Now, when I purchased that Groupon I was seriously excited (I also have one for 10 lbs of apples and pears to pick up later in the season).  I love fruit.  I love locally grown produce.  And, I love a deal.  I saw the offer and snatched it up right away.

I didn’t really stop to figure out how much 10 lbs is in regards to peaches and apricots.  You should probably know that I am notoriously bad at this sort of thing.  Something is seriously awry in the part of my brain that allows most people to estimate weight, size, space, et cetera.  I am always WAY off.

I arrived at the Farmer’s Market, happily handed over my Groupon voucher to be redeemed, and I was told to select the fruit I wanted.  A scale was at the ready and I could weigh it out myself.  I started sorting through standard peaches, donut peaches (extra yum for those), and apricots, placing the chosen ones in my bag.  After a couple of minutes, I figured I surely had to be at least halfway there.

I was wrong.

I placed my bag on the scale and it read: 3 lbs 2 oz.

Seriously?!  I already had enough fruit to last me the week!  I kept going and repeated this startling process a few more times before I finally was finished and made my way through the crowd with my huge bags of peaches and apricots slung over my shoulder.

I clearly just had no idea how little these fruits actually weigh.

Once home, I had to figure out what to do with all of it.  I had intended on making parfaits with what I thought would be about a third of the peaches (and turned out to be about a twelfth of them!), which is what prompted me to buy the raspberries at the festival.

After all was said and done, I made the parfaits (which were quite tasty), used all the apricots up to make homemade apricot-vanilla bean jam (SO good), and have been snacking on the rest of the peaches all week.

I will certainly try to be more prepared when the time comes to cash in on my apple and pear voucher in a couple of months.

In the meantime, I share with you my recipe for Bourbon-Poached Peach Parfaits with Raspberry Sauce.  Enjoy!

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Bourbon-Poached Peach Parfaits with Raspberry Sauce  

makes 3 parfaits

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups water

½ cup brown sugar

2 tblspns bourbon

½ long or 1 short vanilla bean (split lengthwise)

2 tblspns lemon juice, divided

3 peaches, stones removed and quartered

1 cup fresh raspberries

2 tblspns confectioners’ sugar

12 oz greek non-fat yogurt (plain or vanilla)

¼ cup crushed graham crackers (I used Annie’s Organic)

Directions:

  1. Put the water, brown sugar, bourbon, 1 tblspn of the lemon juice, and vanilla bean into a pot and heat over medium-low until the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.
  2. Once sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a boil, add peach quarters and let simmer for 7-8 minutes.  If the syrup doesn’t cover them entirely, turn peaches over halfway through.  Pierce with a fork and test to ensure the peaches are soft.  If they are, remove from pan, peel off skins, and let cool.  (The remaining syrup can be discarded or used to poach other fruit if you like).
  3. While the peaches cool, make the sauce.  Toss raspberries, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining 1 tblspn lemon juice into a blender or food processer.  Process until liquefied and combined.  Push through a strainer to remove any raspberry seeds.
  4. Assemble the parfaits when ready to serve.  First, place two peach quarters in the bottom of each glass.  Top with a few spoonfuls of yogurt.  Drizzle raspberry sauce on next.  Repeat these layers in each glass one more time.  To finish, sprinkle crushed graham crackers on the top of each parfait.

Note:  I imagine that these parfaits would be equally good with crushed nuts or granola in place of the graham crackers.  And, you could always use ice cream instead of yogurt for an even more decadent dessert  – though I do think these were fantastic as is!