Settling Back In

This time of year seems to often be the quietest for me. Things have calmed down at work – if I have done any races they are over and I leisurely enjoy the fall leaves on strolls and bike rides or (gasp) out of the window of my car! I am drawn back into the kitchen to use the oven more and cook up delicious soups and stews with warm spices on the stove. This is especially true after this fall, school is as busy as ever and I ran more than I have before in this period which while a great stress reliever made life feel a bit more packed.

We are now back at home after an action packed two weeks in Japan and Bend, OR. It really was the trip of a lifetime – I am left speechless over the beauty and grace of Japan and still processing the very tough Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji. Racing is a funny thing for me – I often get very nervous for no apparent reason and the size of this race definitely rattled me – it was so cool to see so many people out on the cloudy rainy day to do something so difficult! At the same time I found myself feeling stressed running around so many people for so long, and as a desert dweller for quite some time now, I do not know how to run in mud, which as it turns out there was quite a bit of on the course. I had the kind of day where you retreat very deep inside yourself – and this happened very early. The energy wasn’t there like I thought it should be – but with a new found inner strength, the kindness of literally hundreds of volunteers, the steadfast calm from Rob, and a curiosity about the new environment around me; I ran, walked, and well sometimes dragged myself to the finish of my second hundred miler. Two weeks later I am still mulling it over and taking in the experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The other focus of the trip was the food! Oh the food – whether it was a local noodle shop in a small town, the convenience store, the Japanese equivalent of Denny’s, or a randomly picked spot on the streets of Tokyo the food was something I will never forget. We were lucky enough to also be able to shop at a grocery store and cook for a few days as well. It was an extra treat to wind down the trip in Bend where it seems like Rob and I just toured our way through eating and drinking: coffee, beer, sandwiches, pastries such a great place to indulge after the race! It was also really nice to finally get to see the wonderful running community I have heard so much about, it really felt similar to being home in Flag.

So after this epicurean vacation I find comfort in getting back to routine -eating simple meals and hanging at the brewery. Which brings me to the recipe for today – it is based on our simple formula of grains+greens+vegetables+flavor that shape many of our weekday staples and is an ode to the end of summer and beginning of fall – with lots of pantry ingredients and a few of summer’s last of bounty it can be served hot or cold. We like to pile in lots of extras for flavor and texture including dried fruit for an easy pantry staple punch (goji berries add a nice tang) and oils like walnut, pumpkin seed, and almond. I love having these ones made by Flora around to add extra flavor to dishes.IMG_0011

Roasted Eggplant and Barley Salad

  • Quick cooking (parboiled) barley – (we often use the trader joe’s packages – while you lose some nutritional value they are so quick and easy for a weeknight meal, you can also cook whole barley- find cooking instructions here)IMG_0006
  • 2 medium eggplant cut into large chunks
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped prunes
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries – Flora makes these too!
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/2 preserved lemon finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds (skins left on)
  • 2 tablespoons each of walnut and pumpkin seed oils ( you can use olive oil if you don’t have these – but they add a nice depth of flavor)
  • 1 large handful of baby spinach
  • 1 large handful of arugula
  • juice from 1/2 of a large lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 400, toss eggplant with olive oil, ras el hangout, and salt and pepper
  2. Roast eggplant until well browned and very soft about 30 minutes tossing occasionally
  3. Meanwhile boil a large pot of salted water and cook barley according to package instructions
  4. Lightly toast pine nuts in a small frying pan and set aside – or place on a small tray in the oven for about 10 minutes
  5. Drain barley and place in large bowl – add the walnut and pumpkin seed oil along with the dried fruit and preserved lemon, tossing gently
  6. When eggplant is well browned remove from oven and add to the bowl with the barley, tossing to combine
  7. Add the sundried tomatoes, capers, and nuts to the bowl and toss to combine
  8. Add the greens, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste toss one more time and serve

Well also add beer – this ons a favorite seasonal of Rob’s: Wanderlust Dunkelweizen

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