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The last year we lived in Minneapolis was the first year of our first retirement, albeit we were far too young. One could also say it was our first year of unemployment, or our year off to find ourselves, or our adult 'gap' year, or our year of indecision, but it's my year and I'll call it what I want.
We sold our house on the lake and rented a house in 'the city' while we decided what to do next. It actually wasn't in the city itself but a suburb. We still couldn't walk to any shops or restaurants but we could ride our bikes.
As we also had sold our golf club memberships we, shall we say, had a bit of idle time on our hands (in with all the decision-making).
One of the things I did was to start organizing and cross-referencing all of my cookbooks and recipes (can you say anal retentive?) Mon mari took a part time minimum wage job (AAA) to stave off utter boredom.
The other thing we did was ride our bikes. We decided to ride completely around the 'cities' (Minneapolis and St. Paul, commonly known as the Twin Cities, shortened by locals). We got the maps (courtesy of AAA) and charted our path. The plan was: starting from our house, ride for an hour or so, note the stopping point and return. For the next ride we would drive to the previous stopping point, get on the bikes and ride to a new point, return. Repeat until we had completed the circuit. Actually, in retrospect, we rode around the cities twice, once in each direction (all of the returns to the car)!
We normally rode on bike paths, occasionally on the city streets. It's amazing how much you can learn about a place when you're on a bicycle, rather than in your car!
A year later we moved to Ireland. We continued with our bike rides, this time to explore our newly adopted country. One big difference we noticed immediately is the respect given to bicycles by Irish (and, now we know, all European) drivers. We would be pedaling along with a train of lorries (big trucks) behind us…. waiting for a proper passing zone before they properly passed us, actually going into the other lane to get around us. There were no shouts of "Get the damn bike off the road" that had been hurled at us previously.
When we moved to Andorra I hung up my bike. No paths, and while the drivers were equally polite, the roads were a bit, well, steep. Mon mari loved it! In the summer when our Monday walks were in the high passes he would bring his bike. I would go on the walk; he would ride his bike back home, downhill all the way.
He told me that, on occasion, he was passing cars going down the mountain roads. I cringed. Then I told him to make certain he wore his helmet. Then I made certain that his life insurance was current. He is an adult, after all, although, sometimes…..
Naturally, at the end of our bike rides, wherever they were, we would find a lovely spot of grass and have a picnic. And because I had all of those cookbooks and plain old ham sandwiches would be boring, I developed Portable Picnic Menus.
My entry for this weeks Presto Pasta nights is one of our favorite salads from those picnics, still made several times a summer. Unlike a lot of pasta salads, where the flavors all kind of blend into one homogeneous taste after a day or two, this keeps very well for 3 or 4 days.
Presto Pasta Nights was started by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast and she does an incredible job with the weekly round-up of great pasta recipes every Friday. Don't miss it!
Oriental Pasta Salad
2 cups pasta, penne, fusilli, whatever
1 can red kidney beans, 15oz (450gr)
7 – 8oz (200gr) green beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, any color
1/2 cup sliced celery
3 tbs snipped fresh basil
2 tbs snipped chives
3 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs tarragon white wine vinegar
3 tbs olive oil plus 1 tsp sesame oil OR
3 tbs walnut oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Cook pasta according to package directions. Top and tail green beans and cut into 1" (2.5cm) lengths. Add to the boiling pasta for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain and rinse kidney beans and put into a large bowl. Cut tomatoes in half and add to beans. Snip chives and basil and add to beans. Add vinaigrette to beans and toss gently to combine. When pasta and green beans are done drain well, rinse briefly with cold water and add to kidney bean mix. Toss gently to combine. This salad keeps 3 – 4 days.
For vinaigrette: Mix soy sauce, vinegar, oregano and garlic in small bowl. Add oil and whisk – mixture will not emulsify (thickened) but should be well blended.
Remember, Once Upon A Feast on Friday for pasta, pasta and more great pasta.
And get out there and ride your bike…. it's fun! We're going tomorrow. There are lots of great bike trails near us…. and now I'm in the mood for a picnic!