There's something about air travel, particularly rather extended periods of air travel, that makes me crave fresh, clean, un-fussed-about-with food. It's not just the airline food (although I'm sure that has something to do with it), as I feel this way even after flights on which I've either eaten nothing or brought my own food. And it's not just the dehydration, although I'm sure that has something to do with it as well. Perhaps it's a rebellion against hours upon hours spent confined in such a soulless and (metaphorically) sterile steel and concrete environment, cut off from any kind of connection to the earth and to real food.
Whatever it is, I get off of a plane (or a series of planes) and for the next few days, all I want is vegetables*. Crisp, fresh vegetables that give a satisfying rustle (if they're leafy) or snap (if they're succulent) when you take a bite. And I don't want them to be cooked into melting oblivion--soup is not what I'm looking for here. In fact, I tend to go mostly for raw things. And fortunately for me, the timing of this particular glut of travel was such that my favorite vegetables for reviving myself are kicking into high gear: cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.
I find these veggies refreshing on ordinary days, but when I've barely slept in days and still, even after one or two showers, feel like I haven't rid my body of that "planed" feeling, their powers of revival seem to be heightened. Add the bite of some onion and the brightness of some lemon and red wine vinegar, and you have a bowl of food that will, if not cure jet lag, at least soothe your body into not hating you quite as much (temporarily, of course).
Also on the list of this dish's virtues: it's easy to make while you're in that post-flight stupor--provided you're not so much of a zombie that you're a danger to yourself and others if you get near a sharp knife. Assuming that you've got the knife safety part covered, then, there's nothing to burn if you fall asleep in the middle of making this dish, nothing in the ingredient list that might make you very ill if you don't cook it thoroughly, and generally no way that it will fail in spectacular fallen-souffle fashion.
I've gone a relatively simple route with the seasonings: salt, pepper, lemon, and parsley. Some ground cumin or cayenne would not be out of place here, and you could substitute vinegar (I'd go with the red wine variety) if you don't have or don't care for lemon. Shallot instead of red onion, black beans instead of chickpeas, add some tomatoes, and so on. You could serve it with pita bread, with crackers, with couscous, in a wrap or just plain. It's one of those endlessly variable recipes that tastes good almost no matter how you make it, which is part of why it's perfect for this not-so-with-it state I'm in. Recipe, such as it is, below the fold.
* This craving is strong, but not strong enough to keep me from getting right to work on some baking this morning.
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Tuesday, June 30, 2009