Friday, August 13, 2010

Libertarian at the Salad Bar

Remember in middle school when every paper you wrote somewhere contained the phrase, "Webster's dictionary defines..."?

And remember in college when every earnest letter to the editor began:  As a... [fill in occupation/major, ethnicity, gender, eye color, in any order]?

My high school reunion and birthday are nigh, so I'm feeling my age. I was thinking that if I started this piece with the Webster's bit or, "As a brown-eyed woman who usually eats three meals daily..." it might make me sound younger. Or daft.

Anyway, Webster's Dictionary defines salad as, "A preparation of vegetables, as lettuce, celery, water cress, onions, etc., usually dressed with salt, vinegar, oil, and spice." In my house, a salad should only be made from one of three things: red leaf, green leaf or Romaine. Additions (red onion, grape tomatoes, English cucumber) are viewed with skepticism, at best, but more commonly as a Libertarian views federal spending: "disappointing and troubling," in case you don't have time for the link.

Avocado salad is such an offense (it contains black beans!) that I really only make it for myself or like-palated friends. If you're not averse to the combining and tossing of vegetables you will just love it.

Avocado Salad
Print recipe only here

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (dump them into a mesh strainer or colander and run water over them)
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
zest of one lime
juice of 2 limes
1-2 T good olive oil
1 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 ripe avocados cut into 1/2-inch dice (at point of service - do not prep any earlier)

Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeño peppers, and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.

Just before you're ready to serve the salad, cut the avocados and gently stir nto the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heatwave, shmeatwave: On insulated shopping bags

Two things. One, there is nothing grosser than shmeat. And two, a large, soft insulated shopping bag has been the hero of my summer.

I got my bag this spring at Trader Joes, thinking it would be a great road trip cooler. When I was a kid we had a massive steel Coca-Cola cooler that my parents placed strategically between my sister and me on long road trips. It provided a nice barrier but it was bulky. Actually, I bet the old cooler isn't really all that big. A piece in Vanity Fair about Mad Men mentions the difficulty prop masters have had procuring 1960-sized fruit and pastries. Everything - even apples! -  is supersized these days. Sigh. Anyway, I like that my new bag is collapsible. I can probably load up my new cooler as much as the bulletproof container of my youth, but when it's empty we can tuck it out of the way. We embarked on a 22-hour trip last month with enough scrumptious fresh food and cold drinks so that our stops were spent stretching our legs and chasing our dogs around patches of grass.

The insulated bag has gotten way more use than just that trip. I started keeping it in the car immediately after purchasing it, and realized it made a wonderful shopping bag. Now when I stock up on smoothie fruit or ice cream I don't worry about thawing issues. And since it zips closed I don't have to worry about a certain curious pup snouting around and licking everything. Also, when empty it holds all my other reusable grocery bags quite nicely.

In interesting retailer vs. consumer news, the town council in Telluride, Colorado, has been working dilligently to figure out a way to reduce usage of plastic grocery bags. Local merchants, who have opposed bans of or customer fees for paper or plastic bags, may find they're the ones left holding the bag. Council members are drafting an ordinance that would ban grocers from supplying most plastic bags and impose restrictions on the content of paper bags they are permitted to supply, requiring that they be completely recyclable, contain 100% recycled content, and contain no old-growth fiber, according to The Watch.

The seed for the ban came from a summer 2008 Telluride vs. Aspen bag challenge where the towns competed to see who could use more reusable bags. Telluride won, and combined, the two towns kept an estimated 140,000 bags out of stainless steel grocery bag storage containers.

Do your part, shoppers, and bring reusable bags to the market. Especially in Telluride, where no one needs groceries to cost more than they already do.

Read more:
The Watch Newspapers - Telluride to Impose Ban on Most Plastic Bags
abc news - Austin Weighs Plastic Bag Ban, Sparks Debate

The Aspen Times - Telluride beats Aspen in plastic bag challenge

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