The summer of eating healthy continues. I'm trying to eat a lot more fruit and vegetables--and I am loving so many different kinds of foods. I love that I live in a place that produces so much good produce.

Recently, I bought a new cookbook with a gift card that someone gave me: Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen: Bowl + Spoon. Check out the link and you'll find inspiration (and recipes) for some really good food. I decided to try a recipe tonight which I chose by assessing which recipe I could make using ingredients that I already had. I did have to go out and buy some basil, but other than that, I had everything in my pantry. I chose the recipe for "Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles."

I loved this dish. It was so beautifully green and the pesto added enough richness that the dish seemed indulgent. I basically made a single serving of the zucchini, but made extra pesto to use in the next few days. I think I might have to buy another zucchini tomorrow so I can do a repeat! Here's the recipe, mostly following the instructions in the book (with a few notes on how I diverged from the recipe).

Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles

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5 large zucchini (I only used one zucchini so I scaled everything back except the pesto since I know I can use it in so many ways)

Sea salt

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Pesto:

1 large clove garlic

1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 t. sea salt

1/4 t. black pepper

2 c. firmly packed basil (I think I only had about a cup, so I used a little less of the other ingredients)

1/2 c. olive oil

1/3 c. grated Parmesan

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1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, stems attached (I detached mine since I was using the toaster oven to roast them)

2 T. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. white beans, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. toasted pine nuts

1 c. basil julienned

3/4 c. shaved parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the zucchini into thin strips (the recipe suggests using a julienne peeler, but I don't have one so I used a knife). Place the zucchini onto paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt--and let them sit for 20 minutes, then blot and get rid of as much of the water as you can (but do so gently!).

While the zucchini sweats, make the pesto. Place the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend.

Rub the tomatoes with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and then roast in the pre-heated oven until they begin to get soft. For me, this took a little over 15 minutes since my tomatoes were large.

In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Add white beans, salt and pepper, and saute until the beans are warm. Add the zucchini and saute for ONLY another 5-6 minutes. Toss the zucchini "noodles" with 1/3 c. of the pesto, pine nuts, julienned basil, and parmesan. Make sure to add a tomato on the side of the dish.

The recipe suggests adding red pepper flakes and lemon zest, but I totally missed this step and the dish was still delicious.

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Scene: the Mission District in San Francisco.

Location: the counter at Pizzeria Delfina.

Rationale: all the SF food bloggers rave about this place.

Ambience: great view of fresh ingredients and the line cooks working. Charming details like thin bread sticks and a plate from which I could pinch parmesan cheese, dried oregano on the stem, and red pepper flakes. Economical use of the small space made the restaurant feel cozy rather than crowded.

Cast of characters: me, kind waitress, friendly counter neighbors to talk with throughout the meal.

Food: broccoli raab pizza plus a slice of the salsiccia pizza and part of the insalata tricolore that my new friends shared with me.

Review: my broccoli raab pizza was good, just a little soggy I assume from the veggie's steam. Fortunately, it didn't permeate the crust--only the top part of the pizza was a little too damp. The flavors were interesting, though: nice cheesiness, yummy thin crust, and great to have a pizza with green vegetables. And it was beautiful to look at.

The sausage pizza, though, was so delicious. I loved the spiciness of the sausage and the great balance of onion, red pepper and tomato. This pizza guaranteed that I would return to Pizzeria Delfina.

And it was really delightful to go to a restaurant alone and end up meeting two interesting people who were so generous with their food and conversation.

Pizzeria Delfina

3611 18th Street

San Francisco, CA 94110

415/437-6800

I'm not sure why, but when I was first introduced to a recipe involving salmon and cream, it seemed like an unlikely pairing. I have since discovered how wrong I am, so I'd like to share two recipes that are meant to be served with pasta.

Fresh Salmon and Cream (thanks to Grete who introduced me to this combination):

Saute some onion in a skillet until soft. Add some fresh salmon, breaking it into small pieces as you cook it. When the salmon is cooked through, add some half and half (or cream, if you'd rather). Cook it down a bit and then add a tablespoon or two of pesto. Simmer until the pesto integrates with the cream. Serve on any kind of pasta (I like it with rotelli).

Fettucini with Smoked Salmon (thanks to LaReesa for this recipe, which I made tonight).

12 oz. fresh fettucini, or 6 oz. dried

1 T. butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3/4 c. heavy whipping cream ( I used half and half and cooked a little longer)

3 oz. smoked salmon, coarsely chopped

salt and pepper

2 T. freshly grated Parmesan

chopped fresh parsley

Cook fettucini as per the instructions on the package. Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium high heat and add butter to coat pan. When butter stops sizzling, add shallots and mushrooms. Cook stirring continuously until mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Add cream and smoked salmon and stir until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.

Toss noodles with sauce. Top with parmesan and parsley.

I've had some kind of stomach bug since Tuesday, which means that I haven't eaten "real" food since Monday . . . at least not food that stayed down. My diet currently consists only of the following:

Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup
Campbell's Chicken with Stars Soup
Bananas
Rice
Applesauce
Toast
Saltines
Gatorade

I know the above foods are "real," but they're boring and bland and altogether uninspiring. I'm pretty sure I've only been eating about 600 calories a day. Thursday when I went to the doctor, I'd lost 5 pounds (in 2 days)--I was dehydrated, though, so I guess I've likely gained a couple of pounds back since I started drinking Gatorade.

All of this has caused me to think about the emotional value food has in my life. I really love trying new foods; I think I was adventurous about food long before I was adventurous about life. In fact, food might be the one place that I'm truly adventurous. Yeah, I travel a lot and often times alone, but I play it safe when I travel (which is probably something I should blog about sometime). But food . . . there are a lot of things I'll try: pig butt, whole crispy sardines (including the head and eyes), prawns (that was a big deal for me since I hate shrimp), blood sausage, ox tail soup, bone marrow, bones cooked until they were soft enough to eat for that matter, reindeer tongue, moose heart. To read that list, you'd never believe that I'm picky about meat.

And I've tried a lot of different national cuisines--in fact, I'm always excited to try a new-to-me national/ethnic food. By trying new food, I find new things that I love . . . and I believe that loving new things adds depth to my consciousness and richness to the ways that I relate to the world.

I don't know, maybe I'm making too much of this food thing. And I have to confess that the food I most crave right now is a cheeseburger and fries, hardly daring food for an American.

Addendum: After I posted this, my friend Jonathan sent me a link to a blog that expresses far more evocatively how I feel about food. Check it out.

One of the great things about my job is that I work with students who go on to become talented, devoted English teachers. Repeatedly, I have the strange but wonderful experience of encountering an accomplished teacher who was once my student. Shoushan was in my class just last spring, but now she's teaching 9th graders full-time. She's also a blogger--check out her blog and make a comment so that she'll be encouraged to blog more!

Tonight, Shoushan and I met at Teazer World Tea Market, an independent tea shop with a big city feel. It's a funky space with wooden ceiling fans that rotate lazily, cloth lanterns emitting a fuzzy light, and concrete floors. Tonight the walls were adorned with interesting photographs--one was a black and white photograph of a bathtub fused to the back of a rhinoceros. Strangely compelling.

I'm not a big tea drinker, but this was one of the first cold nights of the fall, perfect weather for my orange ginger mint herbal tea. I usually need a lot of honey or sugar in my tea, but this had such a nice flavor that, on John's suggestion, I didn't put in any sweetener in at all. The combination of ginger and mint created a nice tingly feeling in my mouth. Shoushan's chai reminded her of the tea she drinks at home. We were both quite pleased with our choices. One thing I like about Teazers is the friendly employees who are willing to make suggestions and guide tea novices like me. Find this guy, I think Nigel is his name. He's the one who knows the menu inside and out. John was also really helpful and entertaining with his story of working in Starbucks, living in Istanbul for a year, and returning to Fresno unable to work in a place like Starbucks again.

Shoushan already has great stories about teaching: the kids who confide in her, the student who questioned why anyone has to take "English" classes if they already speak "English," and the ways that she encourages her students to become readers. Last semester, Shoushan was the kind of student who went beyond what was assigned to explore Shelfari, create a blog, or read a book just because I mentioned it in class. She's independent, smart, fiesty, funny, and good hearted. She's a great example of how learning comes from within . . . teachers don't impart knowledge, we share what we know and hope that our students will be interested and motivated enough to explore further and deeper, internalizing concepts in their own unique ways.

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After months of reading food blogs, I’ve decided to start my own: Cakeypal’s Savory Morsels. I’ve really enjoyed looking at delicious looking food and reading about others’ adventures in eating out and cooking in. Most of the web sites I’ve been hooked on have focused on healthy food—and they’ve inspired me to cook more, visit farmer’s markets, and otherwise try to make better choices about what I eat. I hope that as I learn the craft of food blogging, I’ll be able to create some memorable, interesting, or at the very least entertaining posts. I’ll still continue posting to the Icing about life and teaching, but, if you want to read about food, check out Savory Morsels.

Last weekend, I drove around northwest Fresno looking at Mexican restaurants. I'm ashamed to say that in 8 years of living in Fresno, I still haven't found a Mexican restaurant that I love. For awhile, Plaza Ventana came close--but there have been too many misses over the last few years. So I'm now in search of a favorite Mexican restaurant. There are many, many to try, even without the ones I've eaten at before my search became more formal.

Samina and I ate at El Toro Tambien today. It's a windowless, brown building in a strip mall--but since it was in the same area as Max's, a restaurant I like, I thought--perhaps--it might be a contender. Samina had a busy schedule, so we met at the restaurant at 2:45--I was surprised to see that the bar area was already occupied by a number of barflies. In any event, the staff was friendly, the decor was dull, and the menu had few surprises. Of course, our lunch began with chips and salsa. My first bite of the salsa wasn't thrilling, but it got better over the course of the meal: a light tomato sauce with just a bit of a kick. However, the chips were a little thicker than I usually like. I ordered a bean tostada with guacamole. Since my first impressions were so poor, I figured that was a safe dish (much safer than the enchiladas verdes which in Fresno seem to always include green gravy rather than a nice, light green sauce). The tostada wasn't bad, but it was also far from great. Its base was a crunchy but small corn tortilla. The beans were fairly banal, and most of the plate was thinly sliced iceberg lettuce. I did like the guacamole, although it was a little smooth for my taste. Samina's Huevos Rebueldas (note to self: write things down next time) were a little bland, by her report.

Overall, an inauspicious beginning of my search. Please post suggestions about restaurants to visit and dishes to try if you live in the Fresno/Clovis area. Fresno has to have good Mexican food . . . and I'm determined to find it.

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Over the last eight months, my morning breakfast palate has changed. I used to like really sweet things for breakfast, but now I prefer savory items. Two weeks ago, when J. and I first visited his mom in Monterey, I asked Y. what a traditional Korean breakfast was. The next morning, she'd made seaweed soup, fried tofu, rice, and an amazing sesame terayaki sauce. I immediately fell in love with the sauce and tofu combination--and I've been craving it ever since. Last night, when J. and I arrived, she had the dish waiting for us, along with some fried shrimp. And this morning, I watched her make the sauce, in hopes I can replicate the dish at home.

Sesame Terayaki Sauce (or Spicy Soy Sauce)

Crush two cloves of garlic and place in bowl. Add (in equal amounts) Kikkoman Terayaki Sauce and Soy Sauce. Add a few tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. Chop a large handful of green onions and add, submerging in the liquid. You can also add a small, finely chopped jalapeno pepper, if you like it spicy. Let sit for a few minutes, then spoon over tofu and rice.

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This morning we walked to Village Bakery for, I don't know, the 15th time???? I love that place. Village Bakery uses organic, local ingredients. It's the kind of place that every town in an agricultural area should have. I've tried a lot of things on the menu--the egg and cheese sandwich, the breakfast pizza, the georgian cheese tarts, even soup and a hummus sandwich. Of everything I've tried, though, I think I love the toasted onion bialy with smoked trout spread the best. I wish I had a picture of it in all it yumminess. Village Bakery is my favorite place for breakfast in Athens.

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It's summer. Classes are over, the grades are in, the temperature is rising. Life is good. Yes, I have work to do, but it's nice to have some free time, as well. With my now more abundant leisure, I've been looking at food blogs. To be honest, I think I'm in danger of becoming a food blog addict.

You should know something about me. During the school year, I rarely cook. I eat salads or soup--or I buy food that's already prepared. Even so, I yearn to fill my kitchen with cooking equipment. I want a Kitchen Aid mixer, an ice cream maker, a new wok. Yet I know I'd rarely, if ever, use such items. I also would love to own a million cookbooks, but how often would I use them? During the summer, though, I actually sometimes cook. And, if my new fascination with food blogs is any sign, I have a lot of cooking in my future.

Food blogs illustrate a passion for food that I completely understand. Bloggers write about the new restaurants they go to and describe (and display beautiful pictures of) the food they eat. One of my favorite entries was about Burma Superstar, a Burmese restaurant in San Francisco that I love. Note the description and picture of the tea leaf salad--I still salivate when I think of eating that dish in February.

Food bloggers also try out new recipes at home and blog about the meal. Sometimes these meals can be as simple as rice, corn, and turkey burgers. Sometimes, they are much more complex--what is lamb mechoui? Yesterday, I finally succumbed to the food blog world and I made a fantastic focaccia with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and grape tomatoes. It was quite yummy as the quickly empty plate at the potluck revealed.

It's summer. Check out some of these sites and try a new restaurant or a new recipe. And if you find something divine, start a food blog and let me know.