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PASTRIES, PILSNERS, and PÂTÉ

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:38pm

I ’ll just say it: I’m broken out and bloated. Seriously. Mike and I have been jet-setting lately – Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris – and have finally landed back in San Francisco (for the time being). Whenever we travel, we make it a point to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible. We take public transit, attempt the foreign language, mingle with strangers, and always, at every meal, partake in the local cuisine. Lately, we’ve done a pretty good job sticking to this policy even though we’ve been abroad for an entire month; Mike travels by bike with the blonde beauties of Copenhagen, I’ve been taking yoga in Danish (which, unfortunately means my growing vocabulary is full of entirely useless phrases such as “side to side” and “relax your shoulders”), and we’ve explored three magnificent cities without opening a single guidebook. And, as usual, we’ve been taking in the culture through our mouths. In Denmark, it’s nearly impossible to resist the marzipan-filled pastries, the delicious loaves of hearty rye bread, or any of the classic, supremely unctuous, meat stews. In Stockholm, mayonnaise seems to merit its own food group, and the Swedish microbrews are too good to describe – just go and drink. Then there was Paris… oh, Paris …where we somehow managed to justify drinking two bottles of Normandy cider at lunch (and one from Brittany at breakfast), taste-testing hams, eating a bag of Pierre Hermé macarons as a “snack”, and putting away a platter of pommes frites at midnight (with the obligatory bottle of Burgundy). It's been a grand time. But enough is enough, and my body is firmly stating “Enough!”

Thus, I’ve been on a bit of a “cleanse” the past week. For me, detoxification doesn’t mean fasts or diets based on all-juice, cabbage soup, or even calorie counting. It simply involves centering my meals entirely on fruits, vegetables, and, when the weather is cold, whole grains. During this time I eschew all alcohol, coffee, sugar (even honey and maple syrup), dairy, and meat. I try and eat more frequently (which is necessary when fat and protein are being consumed in small amounts) to keep my blood sugar steady, about every three hours. Most importantly, I drink plenty of room temperature water. And I continue the regimen until my symptoms dissipate. Thankfully, after only three short days, the red spots on my face cleared and my favorite jeans zipped.

CUCUMBERS are composed of over 90 percent water (and are actually related to the watermelon ). They are an excellent thirst-quenching, cooling food – perfect sustenance for the long, hot days of summer. Due to their thermal nature and expansive affect, cucumbers should be eaten in moderation by people with cold constitutions and/or damp conditions (such as Candida, diarrhea, sinus infections, or certain cancers); in this case, pairing cucumbers with warming ingredients like garlic or ginger is preferable. Cucumbers purify the blood and cleanse the intestines (helping to restore normality after, say, a five-day feast in Paris). Many know of cucumbers anti-inflammatory properties – images of women lounging with white towel-turbans, face cream, and slices of the juicy green vegetable balanced on their face are almost cliché – which make them a terrific topical remedy for minor burns, blemishes, or swollen, puffy eyes.

Cucumber season spans from early summer until the first days of fall. Purchase cucumbers that are firm (rather than pliable), plump, unblemished (no yellowing or soft spots), and heavy for their size. I prefer the relatively small Middle Eastern and Lemon varieties, as I have found their skin and seeds are rarely bitter; if you purchase a common cucumber, you will likely need to peel and seed it before using. I always avoid waxed cucumbers (the skin should be dull, not shiny). I refrigerate fresh cucumbers in a sealed glass container for up to three days.



CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP



4 SERVINGS This soup will cool you down on even the hottest of summer days.

INGREDIENTS

5 (preferably Persian) medium cucumbers (1 1/2 lb), peeled, seeded if necessary, and cut into 1/2-inch slices (see Notes below)1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, or more to taste
1/2 firm-ripe California avocado3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic chives (or scallion)
freshly squeezed ginger juice to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Diced avocado and chopped chives for garnish

NOTES It is best to start this soup about an hour ahead, as the cucumber needs to be salted so it will release its juice.

To seed or not to seed? The only way to know is to Taste. If the skin is tough and bitter, then peel. If the seeds are large, hard, and bitter, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon.

DIRECTIONS

Place cucumber in a large bowl. Toss with sea salt, rice wine vinegar; allow to marinate for at least one hour, or up to three. The salt should draw out a lot of the cucumber’s liquid, which will aid with pureeing (alternatively, you could use all water for blending, but expect it to dilute the flavor).

Peel and pit avocado. In a blender, combine the cucumber mixture and all of the liquid that’s been released, ½ the avocado, the chopped chives, the ginger if using. and a generous pinch of sea salt. Puree until very smooth, about 1 minute, adding filtered water as necessary to achieve desired consistency (not as thick as baby food, but more viscous than juice). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Chill until ready to serve. When ready to serve, divide soup amongst chilled bowls, garnish with three pieces of diced avocado and a sprinkling of chives; serve immediately.

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