In addition to my food addiction, I have a bit of a running problem. It started in 2007, when Christine, my favorite partner in all outdoor adventures, asked me to do a triathlon with her. My response: “That sounds crazy. Yeah, sure, why not?” She clobbered me in the swim and put further distance between us on the bike. But then, magically, like I had tapped into some hidden fount of energy, I caught up to Christine on the run and eventually passed her. It felt great and easy and natural and I didn’t really want to stop. And I haven’t really stopped since.
At the time of the triathlon, Dad had just been diagnosed, so I used the race as a fundraising opportunity for Dana Farber. Before I left for Minnesota to compete, he gave me a little note card that reads: Dear Sarah, Just wanted to wish you luck this weekend at the triathlon. Try to stay relaxed and have fun. I’ll be thinking of you every stroke and step of the way. I appreciate and am so proud you’re doing this for me. You are a fantastic daughter! Love, Dad. Seven marathons, one trail ultra, a 200-mile relay, and 20 some other races of various lengths and terrains later, I’m still having fun even though I never learned how to relax.
I’m in training now for the Baltimore Marathon in October. Sundays are long run days, which I complete first thing in the morning, which means I’m ravenous by lunchtime. Even when I’m not in training, Sunday lunch has always been my favorite meal of the week. As a kid, it was bonding time with my dad at our favorite restaurant. Now, it’s quiet time at home with Matt. There’s something wonderful about cooking Sunday’s midday meal. I’m never tired, never angry. There’s no rush and whenever I’m done cooking and we finish eating, there’s still hours of weekend left to enjoy.
I owe last Sunday’s delicious lunch entirely to Ali, who graciously hosted me when I was in Boston for the marathon in April. While there, she introduced me to Jerusalem, one of the best cookbooks I’ve encountered in a very long time. All the recipes are just exotic enough to be exciting and just familiar enough to be comforting. There was one recipe in particular that Ali recommended, a spinach salad with lots of goodies in it, and believe me it does not disappoint. How can you go wrong with bread fried in butter? So, thank you Ali, Christine, and dad for inspiring a perfect Sunday run, followed by a perfect Sunday meal.
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 1/2 oz/100g pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons/30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small pitas, roughly torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup/75g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces/150g baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.