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In A Flash

When The West Wing aired in 1999, I decided that I wanted to work in the White House for the president someday.  This was a welcome realization, as I’d been struggling with the prerequisites for medical school since 1994, when E.R. premiered on NBC.  In a flash I withdrew from my chemistry classes, switched my major, and started volunteering on a congressional campaign.

I started out as an intern, but after two weeks–during which my sole accomplishments were opening the mail and not engaging in voter fraud–I was promoted to “Finance Director.”  For reasons that were never entirely clear to me, the Finance Director’s main job was to answer the phone when people called to complain about chickens.  This was a relief, actually.  I didn’t know anything about social security reform or economic policy, and I was petrified that constituents would call and ask about them.  But chicken issues?  I had a shot at getting them right.

The problem with chickens, it turns out, is their poop.  They poop a lot, and when you have tons of them in one place it can mess up the groundwater and make people sick, like in Erin Brockovich.  “We need tougher chicken poop laws,” the callers said.  “Will your candidate work for tougher chicken poop laws?” 

“We will consider chicken poop legislation very seriously,” I said, as I wrote ASK CANDIDATE ABOUT CHICKEN POOP on my notepad.

Ask candidate about chicken poop” is a sentence that never occurred to me until that moment.  Has something like that ever happened to you?  Have you ever gone about your day and then heard yourself say “As far as I know, I’m not allergic to pufferfish,” or, “I didn’t know he was a Basque separatist at the time I handed him the money.”  And then thought to yourself Good Lord, what have I gotten myself into now?

It is in this spirit that I say to you, my friends, I live in Chicago now.

I live in Chicago!  A little outside of it, actually.  And I can’t believe it.  We got here a few days ago and still have a ton of things to unpack, so I’ll leave you and be back in a few days.  But first, I owe you a recipe.

carrots and kaleThis recipe was a finalist in the Washington Post’s Top Tomato contest this year.  It was submitted by a woman named Rachel Varn, and it’s a great way to use left-over roasted (or fresh-roasted, for that matter) vegetables.kale salad 2It’s got kale in it, tomatoes, roasted vegetables and a rich balsamic dressing.  The chewy farro (which is similar to barley) adds some heartiness to the mix as we head into fall.kale salad 1

So make some roasted vegetable salad if you like, and go sit outside on this fine weekend.  See you back here soon!

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Kale & Farro {Download & Print Recipe}
This recipe is by Rachel Varn and was published in the Washington Post on August 14.  I have upped the kale quotient here, made minor changes to some other ingredients, and modified the instructions.
You can use left-over grilled vegetables for this, or you can just toss some vegetables in olive oil and a little salt and pepper and roast them at 400 degrees until they’re aromatic and fork tender.  I roasted whole carrots for about 30 minutes and then cut them into pieces.  I also sliced zucchini on the diagonal and roasted it for about 45 minutes.
If you can, make the salad in advance so that it marinates for a couple hours (or overnight).


For the vinaigrette:

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1-2 cloves minced garlic

1/4 c. olive oil

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

For the salad:

2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or 3-4 big ripe tomatoes, chopped into big bite-sized pieces

6 c. finely shredded kale leaves (remove the stems first)

1 c. uncooked farro

3 c. mixed grilled vegetables, such as carrots, peppers, eggplant, zucchini or mushrooms, in bite-sized pieces


If you don’t have left-over roasted vegetables, roast some.  (See the note above.)

In the meantime, put all the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a jar, close the lid, and shake until combined.  If you taste it, don’t worry: the balsamic flavor will be stronger than in most dressings, but it will be fine when tossed with the salad.

Cook the farro according to the package directions, adding a little salt to the cooking water.

In the meantime, put the kale and the tomatoes into a bowl.  When the farro is done, drain it and immediately add it to the kale and tomatoes.  (You want it to still be warm so that it wilts the kale a little.)  Mix in the grilled vegetables and toss with most of the dressing.

Let the salad sit on the counter for a few hours so that the flavors meld.  Taste it and add the remaining salad dressing if desired, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve the salad at room temperature and then store it in the fridge.


Thunder in her ball capUpdate: the guy I worked for lost the election, and I’m currently obsessed Aaron Sorkin’s new show, “The Newsroom,” and Thunder’s been on the road for so long (3 weeks!) that she’s confused about what state we’re in.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clearly she’s in a state of confusion. Harharhar! This recipe looks soooo yummeh! Usually the things I say that leave me asking wth are things I say to my kids like, “Don’t wipe pee of the floor with your pants.”

    September 14, 2013
  2. Virtuous AND delicious… Brava.

    September 14, 2013
  3. jenny_o #

    Your writing never disappoints 🙂

    September 14, 2013
  4. Great recipe! Looking forward to trying when I get home.
    Am currently travelling around New England doing research & will be heading down to DC later on in the month. Hope that you, Scott & dogs had a good move!

    September 14, 2013
  5. Sarah #

    That looks delicious! Have a great time settling into a new home!

    September 14, 2013
  6. It’s gorgeous. I might have to drop my resolution (resolution dated yesterday) to stop copying recipes and just use the jillion that I have already. And we’re so happy that you live in Chicago now (since somewhere near us in VA or PA didn’t sound like realistic options) — that’s a foodie city, for sure and we’ll be there ASAP.

    September 14, 2013
  7. 1. Your photos are lovely. They make me feel like I’m right at your table. With an Erections Specialist.
    2. Let’s talk pig poop. Have you ever smelled it? Dear lord. It will make your nose bleed.
    3. I missed you. Please don’t ever go away again.
    4. That mother freakin’ salad looks amazing.

    September 15, 2013
  8. i just finished the West Wing and i will tell you that at random times during the viewing i would scream out loud “WHY DID I NOT MAJOR IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AT HARVARD?!” then josh lyman got shot, toby zieggler almost went to prison and i could barely understand all the political jargon and i was glad that i majored in journalism at a tiny public liberal arts school in southern virginia.

    congrats on your movie to Chi-town!

    September 15, 2013
  9. mdog32 #

    i agree with movita beaucoup….i missed you too!! don’t leave us. 🙂 Give Thunder a belly rub for me! ~gina

    September 15, 2013
  10. I consider myself half way to being a qualified physician, having watched all of House MD. I’ve just started watching Supernatural so I’ll be a demon hunter in the next couple of weeks, if you have any requirements in that area.

    Excited to see you back!

    September 15, 2013
  11. Congrats on the move! The recipe looks great – haven’t been motivated to try new dishes in a while…perhaps this one will bring me back into the fold.

    Didn’t watch West Wing (gasp) but I loved Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip…

    September 15, 2013
  12. Me, I watch procedurals and murder mysteries almost exclusively. So if you have a crime in your area feel free to call on me. I would love to investigate one.

    I’m glad the move went OK, and I think that is my favorite picture of Thunder EVER.

    September 15, 2013
  13. Jen #

    Welcome home.. I mean to Chicago!! Just in time for the weather that goes from 90’s one day to 60’s the next. 🙂 Glad to see you made it! I’ll be on the look out for Thunder (not in a stalkerish type of way though!) Gotta get that girl a Cubs hat stat!

    September 15, 2013
  14. So glad you’re back!…and that you safely made it to your new home. I hope you’re settling in well. Unpacking the kitchen boxes are the worst part. This salad looks totally awesome…it has all my favorite things. I ❤ farro 🙂 Will definitely be making it soon!

    September 15, 2013
  15. This is Thunder’s contemplative face—”I wonder if I have to worry about chicken poop in Chicago?”

    September 16, 2013
  16. Hurray, you arrived!!! Enjoy, enjoy. Eat a brat for me please.

    September 16, 2013
  17. a #

    Enjoy Chicago! I hope you love it there. And you can just cross out the Red on Thunder’s hat and write in White. 😀

    September 17, 2013
  18. Kristi #

    Yummy! Huntsville misses you dearly but hope Chicago is a great home for you guys!!

    September 17, 2013
    secondly, although i never wanted to be a doctor (too squeamish, unflattering lighting), if there is a show which i continue to be as obsessed with as it was when it was first on, it’s The West Wing. Easily my all-time favorite show; Tim and i (pre-child) used to binge-watch entire seasons of TWW. We may have created the entire phenomenon of binge-watching, because i think by definition it means “lay/sit/almost fall off the sofa with exhaustion, only get up to perform necessary functions, and stay up until basically morning uttering things like “just…one…more…okay…hit the button…no you hit it…” and yes, i thought i could work in the west wing also; like it was a feasible option for me. i was going for wordsmith…so sam or toby. which job did you want? we could have pretend worked together. side note: did you get really emotional at almost every episode? I basically can’t watch any episode without tearing up at the end. or during. viva la aaron sorkin.
    you make me want to get HBO. i need to just do it.

    September 18, 2013
  20. My daughter and I made this tonight. We have to work the next several evenings, so it will be yummy to put in our lunches. We are sick of sandwiches all the time. I can’t wait to eat it tomorrow.

    August 11, 2014

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