Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hunter/Gatherer Style Chicken Salad

We lounged around drinking coffee, a Sunday morning ritual.
"What if every decision were pre- programmed? What if we have no control over any of it?" Christina said from across the room, her black cowboy boots swinging off of the edge of the red couch.
"Oh it is, and we don't. I am sure of it." A foolish thing to say.
"You are sure of it?" Christina cracked a smile.
"Um, ye..ah.." I said, in one of those, I-really-ought-to-swallow-my-words-and-take-back-what-I-just-said tones.
Anything can be argued, so I went with it. "..take for example, my cousin Alice. We grew up in completely different areas and had very little contact with each other before the holidays, yet two years in a row we gave each other the exact same gift. The first year I thought it was a coincidence. Lot's of people bake cranberry orange bread as a Christmas present, but the next year it was glow in the dark stars that you stick on your ceiling! Who gifts that? We are absolutely programmed to react to life the way we do"

In the blue darkness of morning I lay still, my head still cradled by the warm heat of my pillow, and listened to the loud cries of our little Siamese cat. I could imagine her pacing outside the door, her googly eyes moving about wildly. I was sent an article recently about how cats put subliminal purrs in their cries which humans find particularly annoying, when they want to manipulate their owners. It was working. I had been dreaming about chemistry, residual thoughts from my 10 hour day of sitting in front of a computer screen researching oxidative stress. My alarm went off. 5:04am.

When the cries of the cats subsided at the sight of my feet scuffling around the coffee pot, I noticed a new sound, the splatting of water on pavement. It caught me by surprise, rain?? I had completely forgotten about the possibility of rain. My coach had planned for me to run a 12 mile hill workout today. I looked at the streets below, it was pouring. In my car, on the way to the start of my run, the windshield wipers were working hard to keep the glass clear. It was the sort of rain that turned intersection traffic lights into times square. I felt comforted by the empty streets, at least no one would be watching to judge the insanity of a soggy woman running up and down the same suburban hill over and over again in the pouring rain.

The rain had turned the neighborhood streets into a living jungle, bright green leaves weighed heavily with rain bent over my path along the street curb. I stayed protected in their shelter from the roar of buses galloping by. My headphones were squishy with rainwater, they refused to stay in my ears. I listened to my feet run to the tune of the last song that was playing before retiring my headset. By the fourth hill repeat I began playing a game. First I imagined I was chasing someone, faster and faster I ran through the rain. Then I was being chased, my legs pounded even harder against the pavement, my heart soared. I was a little kid playing tag in the rain. I felt like laughing. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the front yard of a house along my path. It was loaded with flowers, bushes and garden tour crowd pleasers and... Swiss Chard? I was reminded of my salad for the day.

Alice has a brother named Adam. Adam and his wife Melissa own a Crossfit gym out in California. What is Crossfit you say? Check out this link, Adam explains it better than I do.
It is basically what whipped the actors and stunt people into shape for the movie 300..yes the actors with washboards for stomachs. Today I made a salad with no grain, strictly meat and vegetable carbs in paleolithic fashion (well, almost paleolithic, chickens are domesticated animals) for my cousins in California. I love how open Californians are to playing with different styles of eating. I have always been told I would fit well in California.

The salad: Preheat oven to 400. In a very hot pan with a little olive oil, sear 3 chicken breasts until browned. Remove from the heat and place on a bed of raw mustard greens. Mince 4 small cloves of fresh garlic and spread on both sides of the chicken breasts. Cover the chicken with mustard greens (you basically want to steam the chicken in the greens, this will keep the meat really moist and will infuse it with the flavor of garlic and mustard). Cover the pan with foil and bake in the oven for 22 min. Remove the foil when the chicken is done and allow it to cool in the mustard leaves.

In a separate frying pan heat a little more olive oil (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). put a few large onion slices in (these will be removed later, you just want to use them to flavor the oil) add 1 tsp salt. Slice 3 zucchini and 2 yellow squash into thick slices and then quarter them. Mince 2 cloves fresh garlic. Add the garlic and aforementioned vegetables to the pan and cook until they just barely begin to soften, then remove from the heat (I put them in my strainer so they cool quickly). Add 1 cup diced mustard greens and 1 cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp pepper, the chicken (diced). Stir well. Taste it. I almost didn't dress this salad, because the flavor is so fresh and raw and beautiful on its own. The dressing is a simple 1 Tbsp cider vinegar, the juice from 1 lemon, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp olive oil and salt.

Christina's vote: "Today the chicken came before the egg"

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