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Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Rainy Saturday Lunch for One

Ahh, April in San Francisco: sounds so lovely... camellias in full bloom, the fragrance of jasmine everywhere, hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower, making the occasional guest appearance at the windows that face the garden, delighting us with their fleeting but welcome presence; all so perfect if only it would STOP RAINING!!!!!

Just like that great blues artist, John Lee Hooker, I'm moaning "Rainy days, rainy days, I think it's raining all the time.." because it is raining all the time!! John should know. He lived in San Francisco, too. No wonder he sang the blues.

So what is a woman who is single for the weekend while her husband is on a three day alcohol-fueled, gas-guzzling orgy to do on such a miserable day? ( did I mention, he went to an NHRA event in Vegas with his "work associates" rubbing elbows with the most illustrious members of the beer belly & tube-top crowd )

Watch depressing films & eat, of course!

My day started with Haagen-Daz's latest marketing gimmick "Extra Rich Light Ice Cream" (are they brilliant or what?) which was so rich yet so light that I proceeded to eat the entire pint while watching the darkly comic & extremely depressing (hence the need for mood-elevating enhancer in Caramel Cone flavor) biography of Peter Sellers, very aptly portrayed by Geoffrey Rush.

It's called "The Life & Death of Peter Sellers". See it if you're a true movie buff & Peter Sellers fan like I am. Otherwise, don't bother.
As for the ice cream, buy Breyers or Dreyers on the west coast because that is what it tasted like. The "Extra Rich Light" Haagen-Daz is nothing more than plain old supermarket variety ice cream that they have managed to sell at a premium ice cream price because of the brand label.

If you're going to pay for premium ice cream then get the regular Haagen-Daz not the "light" version. The regular one has much better texture & flavor for the same price (yes, I tried both in the same flavor, dutiful consumer advocate that I am).

If you want to cut calories & pennies, buy the supermarket brand or better yet eat a peach.

Two hours & 1000 calories later, I was in a position to re-evaluate my nutritional needs for the day; none of which had been met except for my total fat & saturated fat requirements which had far exceeded the RDA's daily recommendations ( thank you, Haagen-Daz!!)

Some nutritional experts claim that people who eat unhealthily continually overeat because their bodies are clamoring for missing nutrients; so the poor fat slob's brain keeps impelling him or her to eat until these nutritional wants are met.

Once they are met, the hunger is sated and the food impulse ends. Often they are not met and so the endless cycle of junkfood eating continues, making us fatter but nutritionally starved.

Sounds logical, no?

I have one thing to say to that: NONSENSE!!!

One hour after my depression-induced calorie fest, I decided to test this theory of compulsive eating by drinking two glasses of water & taking one very potent multi-vitamin designed especially for women, jam-packed with the latest in essential everything meeting the nutritional requirements of ten bionic athletes.

The result.....HUNGER.

Still hungry even after a mammoth dose of anti-oxidants mated with all those nasty, fully-loaded, energy-zapping, atom-killing , wrinkle-inducing, predatory, & uncoupled things known as free radicals that all the diet gurus & dermatologists keep preaching about to us .

So...maybe I still need to reach my requirements for dietary fiber.

With this in mind, here's a healthy & tasty lunch entree that is easy to make and would even win the approval of the good doctors: Perricone, Sears & Agatson (avatars of, respectively, the Perricone Prescription, the Zone Diet & the South Beach Diet). Being alone on a rainy Saturday afternoon with a Woody Allen movie blaring in the background (Annie Hall is my first choice) is not an absolute prerequisite for preparing or enjoying this meal but let's face it: if you were with your significant other on a beautiful sunny day would you really spend it inside your kitchen cooking a healthy pasta dish? Right, I didn't think so.

Use farro pasta, an ancient whole grain that is low on the glycemic index (Rustichella d'abruzzo, a luxe supermarket brand now makes it) to make the dish extra healthful and flavorful and add a little extra left coast appeal. Heirloom cherry tomatoes also add a nice touch.

Of course, you can substitute your favorite vegetable for the broccoli rabe: asparagus, spinach, peas, arugula or mushrooms all would work equally well. I just happen to like the bite & heft of broccoli rabe. Get a whole rotisserie chicken cooked from your favorite grocer or meat purveyor (Bryan's is the best in S.F.) unless, of course, you have a rotisserie oven at home, then go for it!!! You can get a roasted chicken but rotisserie chicken is beautifully moist, evenly cooked & much less fatty. You can also substitute grilled Italian sausage or poached salmon for the chicken or skip the meat altogether & add feta to the dish for a vegetarian twist. Isn't cooking wonderful?? You are in total control! This recipe will serve one very bored, ravenously hungry person with enough leftover for another rainy afternoon or 4 moderately hungry people in any kind of weather.

Pasta with Rotisserie Roasted Chicken Breast, Broccoli Rabe & Cherry Tomatoes

1 lb. pasta
(farfalle, penne rigate or fettuccine work well)
1 bunch of broccoli rabe (washed, dried & roughly chopped into bite-size pieces)
1 rotisserie chicken breast (skin & bone removed, cut into 1" bite-size chunks)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes ( cut the larger ones in half)
2 medium-sized garlic cloves (finely diced)
1/2 cup dry white wine (something decent & potable, taste it, if you can't drink it don't cook with it!)
1/2 cup good quality, low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you must)
1/4 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 whole lemon preferably Meyer's, juice & finely grated peel only
(no white pith, too bitter)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated by hand (plus more to taste for garnish)
1/2 bunch parsley (leaves & soft stems only, finely chopped)
1/8 tsp of salt & pepper, to taste
small handful of basil, leaves only, chiffonnaded
1 large pot for pasta
1 large saute pan with lid

Start a large (at least 6 quart) pot of lightly salted water to boil for the pasta. When the pot reaches the boiling point, add pasta, stirring briskly to prevent it from sticking. When water returns to the boil, lower heat slightly and cook according to the package directions, or until al dente. Drain pasta in colander. Keep pasta in colander, place colander back in pot & cover loosely with towel or foil to keep warm.
While pasta is cooking, place a large saute pan or wok (12" or 14" in diameter) on med-high heat. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pan, wait a few seconds, add 1/8 tsp salt and red pepper flakes, then give pan a quick stir to evenly distribute seasoning. Add all of the broccoli rabe, allowing it to sit in pan without stirring for 45 seconds to a minute.
Give the broccoli a quick stir, exposing uncooked areas to the bottom of the pan. then add garlic & saute mixture for another minute or two until all of the mixture appears to have absorbed the oil evenly then add the stock, cover the pan & steam broccoli for 2 minutes until slighly wilted.
Remove lid from pan, add the cherry tomatoes and the wine then turn up the heat until most of the wine evaporates. Turn off heat, add chicken, pepper, parsley, lemon juice & peel; stirring to incorporate everything. Add pasta, cheese & additional olive oil. Toss well. Taste. Adjust seasoning, adding additional oil or stock if pasta appears to dry. Serve in warm bowls using the microwave to warm them. Garnish with basil and more cheese, if desired.

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