Back in the Kitchen, and Out on the Road

I don’t have a better way to characterize the past four weeks than by marking my progress in terms of fitness and cooking. 29 days ago, I spent nine hours in surgery having my spine reconstructed. It looks like this now, from the inside anyway:

Side view of titanium hardware and interbody fusion structures.

Today, I am relaxing in a beautiful spot in the Hudson Valley. Some of our dear friends own a vacation house here, and they’ve generously lent it to us for a week of R & R before I return to work next week. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on my physical endurance, in part because I’ve been looking forward to the hilly and spectacular 3-mile loop from the house. I’m pleased to report that I’ve walked that loop every day for the past 3 days. If you had a view like this, wouldn’t you want to get out there?

Dutchess County!

That photo was taken last fall, but you get the idea…

Besides exercise, I measure my mental state by my presence in the kitchen. When I got home from the hospital, I had NO appetite, and even less interest in cooking anything. Happily, my culinary self has re-emerged, and I’ve been delightedly cooking since the day after we arrived here. There was a big crowd with us for the weekend, creating a whole entourage for a Caribbean feast of goat stew, citrus black beans, crab-avocado salad, and almond cake on Saturday night.

I guess I’m in a Latin mood, because last night I featured traditional Spanish fare: stuffed piquillo peppers, baked goat cheese, and garlic soup.

Baked goat cheese and garlic soup

Stuffed Piquillos

I’ve been working, too. E-mails are flying, new documents are being created and edited, textbooks are being reviewed and selected, and agendas are being planned for courses and meetings. One week from today, I’ll be back at school and I think I’m totally ready to go.

For those who asked, here is a quick recipe:

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Chorizo and Manchego

1 dozen piquillo peppers, roasted. Remove tops, seeds, and ribs.

1 block manchego cheese (about 6 ounces). Cut half of the cheese into twelve 1/2 inch strips; dice the rest.

1 link chorizo sausage (about half a pound?), casing removed, chopped fine

1 large Spanish onion, chopped fine

1 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped

Spanish paprika, or other sweet-roasted paprika, to taste.

In a hot skillet, saute the sausage and onion until the onion has melted down. Add the chopped tomato and  paprika to taste. Reduce temperature to medium and allow the tomato to break down into the mixture. Stir in the chopped manchego and turn it in the pan until it melts into the meat and vegetables. Remove from heat.

Stuff the peppers with the meat mixture, then slide a strip of cheese into each pepper. Assemble the peppers in a baking dish and roast at 350° until the cheese is melted.


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