potato-kale quesadillas for a wintery weekend

My dad says all this snow in D.C. is because of me. Perhaps the weather gods are trying to appease this transplanted Canadian, but I hereby give them permission to cease operations.

After three feet fell between Friday and Saturday, the city shut down. There was no public transit available in our neighborhood from late Friday night through Monday. This morning, Tuesday, I managed to trudge to work on brown-sugared streets and stalled trains, my commute finally clocking in at two hours. By the time I got home tonight more flakes were falling, and an email saying we’re closed again tomorrow was waiting in my inbox.

Thanks to my housemates, I’m managing to stay sane (and thanks to the sun, still cheerful). Austin brought on a craving I didn’t even know I had with homemade chicken pot pie, and Becki made me nostalgic for childhood Sunday mornings with her croissants—delicious when warmed to a crisp in the oven.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of cooking or baking done myself. (I’ve re-discovered that this is what happens when you’re cooking for one, and can’t keep up with your domestically-inclined housemates.) While they measured and sauteéd away, I was busy trying to make a dent in a batch of beet borscht and vat of homemade hummus—supplemented of course with regular doses of popcorn.

Eating hand-to-mouth like this, all snuggled up in the living room watching the dogs play in the snow, brought its own hermitic serenity.

I did manage to try a new recipe a colleague printed out for me before we left early on Friday. Kale, potatoes, and goat cheese are creative quesadilla fillings, and even though I probably modified the recipe too much for it to properly reflect the original, it yielded tangy and meaty Saturday-night satisfaction.

The best themes to emerge from our white weekend, however, were yoga and Mr. Yogato.  Their linguistic semblance is completely unrelated, but not their ability to turn my unexpected long weekend into a health and wellness retreat. Becki’s four-wheel drive made it possible for Scott and me to get to Studio Serenity in the funky Adams Morgan district.

After four classes, I could see why the place was their second home. Each session starts with dabs of essential oil and friendly introductions. So far, the instructors have all delivered the ideal mix of rigor and relaxation, and each class finishes with aromatherapy spray, spiced tea, and animal crackers. (Perhaps to remind us of all our wonderful downward dogs, cat stretches and fish poses!)

The cookies and tea weren’t enough to replenish our sweaty, stretched-out bodies though, and so with lavender still on our noses, Scott carted me off to Mr. Yogato. Unlike most frozen yogurt places, their yogurt is pure and unsweetened. I was happy to discover that per ounce, their yogurt has one whole gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, and only 30 calories. (That meant that even my generously sized “middle” brought me 8 grams of protein, no fat, and only 240 post-yoga calories.) Topped with blueberries and raspberries, there was plenty of room for anti-oxidants, too.

At the time of this posting, I am stuffed with my second quesadilla of this extended weekend, pouring a glass of wine, and setting up for another day at home. The federal government has declared another snow day, and I will be happy: as long as I have my yoga, my yogurt, and new things to try in the kitchen.

And I’m proud to welcome the quesadilla back into my repertoire, with startling new flavors peeking out from beneath its folds.

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pleasant thoughts tomato soup

I posted on cold soup once before, and it was a hit. It even got me a link on Wikipedia. (Applause may now commence.) I tried another one last night from my latest Bon Appetit, titled unassumingly “Summer Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup,” and with one spoonful fell instantly in love.

Never one to order soups that prance about menus with names like gazpacho and vichyssoise, I approached this cold soup with some reluctance. The recipe began, however, with the promise that “ripe summer tomatoes are perfect just as they are…” and I was lured deeper. Summer tomatoes simply make me weak.

The day had been another scorcher. Some new friends were coming over for dinner, and I was determined to use as little heat as possible for its preparation. I still had to visit three different locations to procure the appropriate ice cream, roasted red peppers, and good bread, but managed to keep my cool. The dessert was baked early in the morning, and the main course quickly seared and delivered to plates without too much of a sweat.

All the other accoutrements were served in the cool-as-a-cucumber-style of this fresh first course.

This soup’s preparation is as simple as a sandwich. “But I’m not a cook,” you might say. Well, this here concoction involves none of that intimidating heating-of-ingredients business. Like all simple dishes, the result rests only on the quality of your ingredients, not your skill.

Finding those really special tomatoes was, I have to admit, a bit of a chore. I tasted local tomatoes at the co-op, and smelled red globes at two major grocery chains: Disapointment lurked in every overflowing bin. The mushy, bland, and boring specimens reminded me that my dear tomatoes just haven’t yet hit their peak. But I wasn’t willing to give up yet. A stop at a friend’s garden led me to lush green plants bearing their tiny, heavy treasure.

In all shades of fire the tomatoes fell into my hands and into my soup. Yes, I still had to use some less-than-perfect “over the counter” tomatoes to plump it up a bit, but I believe it was these little explosions of sweetness that truly saved the day.

Just when I thought I’d have to kiss my soup craving goodbye until November, this one snuck up and told the humidity where to go. I instantly fell under its spell of fresh-picked tomato goodness, because, as American humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote, “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Mr. Gizzard, I couldn’t agree more.

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