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Chop Salad – Japanese/California Style

It’s past 9 pm and I am still awake! No, this is progress, even if you don’t think so. We got back from a 10-day trip to California on Monday night and I promptly fell into jet-lag hell. Today is the first day close to normal – three days later. This is good.

Oh, and the trip was full of all the California goodness I crave when I am away. Wild turkeys waddling down the street, completely oblivious to cars that might spatchcock them a good 8 months too early….

Amazing views, which I just took for granted in the past over the bay – showcasing in one breathtaking sweep the bay bridge, the golden gate bridge, Lawrence Hall of Sciences, Alcatraz Island, and the Berkeley campus. …

The botanical gardens, where we wandered, carefree, for two hours, enjoying the sun, the climate, the super secret highly-controversial conversations with the local physicists, who delivered information in person, out of the hearing of the NSA and other prying USA governmental agencies. We hope. Just saying.

The redwood forests. Ah.

Trying out new fruits – who ever heard of a SUMO orange? Tastes like a mandarin, only…bigger.

Getting new recipes for gin cocktails from friends. Still have to make this, reads like a future addiction.

And hanging with the nephews and the sisters and the parents and aunts and cousins, etc. who make us do dangerous things on two-wheeled vehicles inside the house.

We survived. And now we are back.

Making Japanese chopped salad.

This is a little bit like… a sushi salad. But takes the classic chop salad as its inspiration.

Lots of chopped veggies, cut very small, plenty of protein in there, some fat as well, mixed with a super yummy dressing.

In this case, this dressing. Simple easy fast.

And this mix of veggies and protein:

salmon – raw, cabbage, avocado, romaine lettuce, soy beans, re hydrated wakame seaweed, hard boiled eggs, green onion, cucumber

And I added in a bit of yuzu mayo – collected in Oakland during the trip.

And a few sprinkles of bonito flakes.

some crispy bacon…would probably not be bad in this.

Dressing adds a brilliant orange glow. But MOM! No chilies! NOT SPICY. (I almost killed my mother with a not so unsimilar salad while at home.)

Actually, if you ask me, I would put in some chili oil.

Nice light salad, low carb, full of protein and energy. Lots of antioxidants.

Can you tell I am starting to think about running a marathon again?

 

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I can’t get no satisfaction

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Just so you know, there is something behind this nonsense diet I have undertaken. With all the running I have been doing this summer, around 50k per week these days, I decided I might as well put some goals behind it, so it’s not all aimless running. Scratch that. None of it is aimless, it’s all for fitness, staying in shape, keeping stress away, feeling good, staying young (29 and counting!). But when you can put another specific, dated goal on top, a real challenge that will push you – at least a bit – it feels even better. So I have. As long as the weather is reasonable on that day, I will run the Munich half marathon on October 11. A mere six weeks away. But considering I have been running all summer with the aim to improve, I feel like I have been training for quite a long time already. In theory, it should be a breeze. Not that I have ever done it before.

But…it would be even nicer not to come in last. I’m slooooow. And while I have seen nice improvement over the summer – so far cutting about 35 seconds off my average km speed, I know I can do better if I get more serious. More serious about core strengthening for better posture and simply easier running, more serious about speed by doing interval training, more serious about diet, for which there has been very little seriousness. I don’t eat junk, at least not much, but when you perform sport activities for 2+ hours a day (running, biking to work and back, biking everywhere), you burn a lot of calories, and I’ve noticed that the hunger gets really out of control mid-day. I snack too much in between meals and it’s not snacking on carrot sticks. I am a carb junkie. Give me crackers and pretzels and I am a really happy camper. Throw in some ice cream when the thermometer hits 30+ degrees, and I am wallowing in bliss. But all this means that calories in are only perhaps a bit less than calories out. So I have managed to lose a few pounds over the summer, but really only a few.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be 10 pounds/15 pounds lighter to run a half marathon?

With six weeks to go…time to make a drastic, impactful change and see what happens. I’m cutting carbs. Day 7 in, I’m fairly miserable, but seeing results, so sticking with it. I guess you could say I am trying out a Paleo diet – with the exception that I am also leaving out the fruit, All sugar is gone, all carbs, except what comes from nuts and vegetables, gone. Let’s see what happens. Feels like Atkins, which I tried out quite successfully a long long time ago, but much much worse because in those days I didn’t run a 10k five times a week.

Tonight’s dinner: a reflection of the diet, but doing my best to stay happy with food I love.

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Some poached salmon, long cooked kale, (always a favorite),

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And a weird but ok attempt at zucchini/pepper/cheese pancakes (I resisted adding an egg to bind everything together, hoping the cheese would do the job as the pancakes cooked, because there have been way too many eggs in the last 7 days. Wasn’t pefect).

Results:

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Good, filling, better than much of what I’ve eaten in the last few days while traveling, (on the road: piles of nuts, tomatoes, carrot sticks to fill the hunger moments) but…oh, I am really suffering without bread. Timing: gonna try to make it through another 3 weeks. For the last couple weeks before the race I’ll pull in fruit and legumes and some whole grain carbs.

So for now, dealing with this.

 

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Making “Lox”

I remember cutting a recipe out of the New York Times’ Food section some 15 years ago or even more. It was a recipe for cured salmon, a delicacy I grew up loving eating on bagels with cream cheese and red onions and tomatoes. Standard Sunday Morning Brunch Food where I grew up – and it was great stuff. I even have that old newspaper recipe in my recipe clippings folder at home. But I never made it. Don’t even know why. Somehow never motivated enough.

But lately, I had been running into a lot of different versions of recipes for gravlax (the northern European word for cured salmon – means literally “buried salmon” and came from the custom of fishermen in that region burying salted fish in the sand for a few days in order to preserve it for a longer period of time) and I started to get curious about it again. The traditional recipe has only a few ingredients: salmon, salt, sugar, dill. So I didn’t want to venture too far from that – at least for the first round. So after reading about 20 different recipes, I decided on my version: salmon with salt, sugar, pepper, fennel seeds, fresh dill and tarragon, lime zest and gin. Ok, maybe I didn’t stick that closely to the original. Too curious about adding the citrus flavor and the gin to see what would happen…

Gravlax Curing Ingredients

Gravlax Curing Ingredients

On Saturday, i bought a 700 gram piece of salmon and in the evening I assembled the VERY SIMPLE recipe. Cut the filet in half, rubbed both sides of both pieces with a mixture of the salt, sugar, pepper and fennel, then put the chopped herbs and lime zest on top of the filets, drizzled them with a few tablespoons of gin (aquavit and vodka seem to be good alternatives), sandwiched them together and wrapped it all up in tin foil and put in the fridge.

Curing the Salmon

Curing the Salmon

Sandwich the herbs between the filets

Sandwich the herbs between the filets

According to the recipes I was reading, the salmon would need to cure for at least 24 hours, and it could last up up to 3 days until it was really done.

But…round one of making gravlax showed me that you CAN overdo it with the amount of salt you put on the fish. In 24 hours (I tasted it last night), it was very clear that the curing ingredients had completely saturated the fish (I attribute this to the amount of salt mixture I used) and if I didn’t scrape off the salt and herb mixture asap I would have something inedible. So before going to bed, I cleaned up the filet, chopped it into 4 sections and froze three of them – gravlax freezes really well, so I can eat the rest piece by piece and not worry about it going bad..

Cured Salmon

Cured Salmon: deeper in color, some moisture gone from the meat

This morning: fresh, homemade gravlax on my toast. Delicious. Next: must try making whole-wheat bagels. Maybe a project for this weekend.

Breakfast: freshly cured salmon on toast

Breakfast: freshly cured salmon on toast

 

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