Ronnie Paul: Cooking unwinds travel tension |

Ronnie Paul: Cooking unwinds travel tension

A late summer salad works to relax tension.
Photo by Jeff Kane |

I just booked our vacation flights to Mexico. Although the actual journey is two months away, I’m already starting my traditional pre-trip rituals.

Before we travel, it’s essential that I complete several projects on my 10-year to-do list. This time I plan to finish the sweater I started six years ago and also lay the slate stepping stones in the garden.

About one month before the trip, I start rewriting the letter to our housesitter which now approaches the length of a two-volume Dostoevsky novel. Is it important to feed the cats an exact number of kibble? Must I list the vocabulary words my dog understands?

I actually start packing two weeks before we depart. This leaves ample time to consider whether a 10-day trip actually requires six hardcover novels and five sweaters. Luckily I’m flexible, so by final zip-up, I’ll probably scale it down to four thick paperbacks and three shawls.

I’m always nervous about missing our flight. I remedy this by setting two alarms and remaining alert all night to the click of minutes from each digital clock. When wake-up time arrives, I’m exhausted, with deep purple circles hanging like shopping bags under my eyes — but ready to roll.

Finally, hours later, I lean back, fasten my seatbelt and dream of warm sandy beaches and chilled Margaritas.

I get anxious about traveling, but feel relaxed cooking. At home or away, please try these recipes.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Serves 4

Pick the last of summer’s strawberries, then swoon while you savor this.

4 ounces baby spinach leaves

1 cup sliced strawberries

1½ ounces crumbled chevre

1 tablespoon poppy seeds


Whisk together;

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1½ teaspoons honey

Toss the dressing with the salad and serve immediately.

Consider planting more strawberries next year.

Autumn Beans and Rice Salad

4-6 servings

Use late summer crops to fancy up the usual beans and rice idea.

½ cup raw white Basmati rice

¼ cup corn kernels (frozen works, too)

½ teaspoon olive oil

½ cup chopped tomatoes

¼ cup chopped red onion

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¾ cup black beans


Whisk together:

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 garlic clove, pressed

Salt and pepper

Cook the rice according to directions and let cool to room temperature.

Sauté the corn in olive oil until the kernels turn golden. Let cool.

Combine the salad ingredients with the dressing and let sit for about one hour before serving.

Sesame Eggplant

Serves 3

Here’s one more late summer salad.

3 medium Japanese eggplants, halved length-wise


Whisk together:

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons mirin (a sweet Japanese sherry)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon tamari

½ teaspoon sesame oil

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

Cover a baking sheet with foil and grease liberally.

Place the eggplant face down and bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees until the skin is wrinkled and easily pierced.

Pierce the flesh with a fork and spoon on the dressing.

Let the eggplant marinate a bit and serve at room temperature.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User