The Martha Stewart of Cyclocross?
November 16, 2005
A weekend off racing and nothing interesting to write about except FOOD! Food is in my list top five favourite things ever and the term is used in the broad sense (including beverages too). Bike riding and food go together; you ride lots, you need to eat lots. It's simple. Fortunately, the people I spend the most time with (mainly Josh and Melodie) share my enthusiasm for food. Melodie and I usually don't get more than an hour into a ride before starting to talk about food. We talk about food that was, food that could be, food that should be and food that will be. We often plan out meals weeks in advance - we've been trying to get together and make mole for close to two months, for example. Melodie also likes to cook while Josh mostly prefers to reap the benefits of our cooking.
Asian markets, Mexican markets, Indian markets and farmers' markets in Northern California make for a wide variety of exotic ingredients, fresh produce and endless cooking possibilities. Nearly three years ago Josh and I made the decision to quit eating meat for health reasons. Except for the occasional sushi craving breakdown and hidden bacon surprises (beans served in Arkansas are usually cooked with bacon, this caught me off guard and ruined a meal) we've been able to subsist on a non-meat diet. I'm not intending to preach the goodness of vegetarianism - make your own choices - I'm just saying that it is possible to be an elite athlete and not eat cows, chickens and pigs. During the summer, I try really hard to grow a garden in the front yard. I've been thwarted by deer, raccoons and goodness knows what other animals that like to eat my tomato plants. Snails seem to prefer the pepper plants and basil just won't grow at all. One of these years I plan on constructing a large jail like structure around the garden to keep the animals out of the plants.
So how do I get enough protein? This is generally the first question asked upon learning that I'm not grilling steak and broiling chicken for dinner each night. This world is chock full of protein goodness from the legumacae family – of which chickpeas, pinto beans and soybeans all belong. Many of my tofu experiments involve the food processor (possibly the best kitchen appliance ever invented) and range from sauces to lasagne filler to a divine chocolate pie. Here is a recipe for a great tofu dip; I've brought it to barbeques and watched it get gobbled down before telling anyone it is made from tofu.
4 heads braised garlic- cut the tops off of the garlic and place in a baking pan with 1 cup of vegetable stock; cover tightly and cook at 350 for 1-1.5 hours until the heads are soft and lightly browned. Squeeze the garlic out of the cut-open top. This is tasty to spread right onto bread. Try to restrain yourself from eating all the garlic right away. Then take:
1 package soft silken tofu
1/2 cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Put every thing into the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Optional ingredients include a few tablespoons of miso, capers, fresh rosemary, roasted red peppers, dijon mustard and fresh tarragon. Serve with fresh bread.
Lentils make up a large part of my diet, whether they are in soup form or served over rice in a more glutinous state they are a tasty protein source. I prefer pink lentils because they have a smoother consistency when cooked. Here is a yummy curried lentil recipe to serve over rice:
1 1/2 cups pink lentils soaked for a day
4 cups water
Add the following spices to taste
Fresh or powdered ginger
1-3 fresh serrano or peppers
Several tablespoons of salt
Ground cardomon (go easy with this one, it can overpower the flavor of everything else)
Anything else you think would taste good such as carrots and yams
Boil the lentils and spices for about 30 minutes. They should break down and become smooth and soupy. Serve over hot rice. The lentils stiffen as they cool so I usually add more water when reheating.
Pasta is the fuel of cyclists and I eat my share of it. In the summer, when fresh basil is plentiful, Josh and I eat pesto at least once a week. I often throw peas into the pasta during the last minutes of cooking. The sweetness of petite peas mixed with the sharp tang of raw garlic, aromatic basil and salty pecorino romano cheese make for one of my favorite post ride meals. The pesto also finds its way onto pizza, bread and tofu depending on what is in the fridge.
The following is an easy-to-prepare pasta recipe. I'll use cherry or grape tomatoes when they are cheap and in season, otherwise canned tomatoes are sufficient.
1-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes halved or 1 large can of canned tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup high quality balsamic vinegar per pint of tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil per pint of tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
10-20 kalamata olives pitted and coursely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts lightly toasted in a dry skillet
4-6 cloves garlic chopped
12-16 oz penne pasta
Place halved or canned tomatoes in a baking dish, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are broken down. Remove from oven stir in olives and pine nuts. Serve over cooked penne, top with grated asiago, pecorino romano, or other hard cheese. Feel free to adjust the amount of balsamic vinegar and garlic but do NOT use cheap black olives.
These are just a few of my favorite things to cook and eat. Maybe after Nationals in December I'll have time to share a few dessert recipes.