Friday, January 18, 2008

Plane, Train, Automobile, Man-Carriage, Zip-Line…

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t drive. There’s actually a funny story behind my driving history, but I’ll save that for another post. The fact of the matter is, I just haven’t needed to drive in any of the places I’ve lived. I always had friends who carted me around in Ohio. Boston has a great public transport system. Exchange students in Argentina weren’t allowed to have cars, San Sebastian, Spain was a tiny little town where I could walk anywhere in 20 minutes or less, and the trains in Japan are ridiculously efficient and far-reaching. I love that I don’t drive and never really have – think about how tiny my carbon footprint is, and how much money I’ve saved in car payments and gas and repairs!

Since I don’t drive, I’ve been forced to take some creative modes of transportation throughout my travels.

While living in Japan, Phil and I alternated between bicycle (this was a dangerous affair)…

Man-carriage (a bit bumpy, but quaint)…

Scooter (fast)…

Lots of walking…

And train (especially thrilling when crowded and smelly in summer).

When we visited Thailand we jetted around on a tuk-tuk.

While our main transportation during our backpacking adventure through South America was bus, we tried to utilize local modes of transportation whenever possible. This meant traveling by horseback in the Andes of Peru

By zip-line while crossing dangerous rivers in the Andes

By a boat made solely of reeds in the Islas Flotantes of Lake Titicaca

By a more modern boat in the Islas Ballestas in Paracas National Reserve off the coast of Peru

And by charter plane in Nazca so as to take full advantage of the view of the Nazca Lines.

By the time I got to Buenos Aires I was so darn tired from all that adventure transportation that I just had a friend carry me everywhere.

The Tube is the obvious choice in London

And European trains are efficient and cheap so I took one from Rome to Pompeii with a buddy…

And with Lipe from Amsterdam to Antwerp (this was a boring ride, and my bosom is quite comfy).

But trains aren’t the only way to get around in Amsterdam! The multitude of canals makes the water bike a great alternative…

And if you diet before visiting you can even travel by car.

Since I do spend most of my time in the States and don’t have a car here, I’ve needed to kayak through the lakes of the Adirondacks

Take a trolley around New York state (sorry, I’m kissing my pretend boyfriend here, trolleys are very romantic, you know)…

And hike the dizzying heights of Mt. Monadnock.

I’m also a very big help when friends are driving me around here in the States, just don’t ask me to get behind the wheel!!

However, I do believe that one of the greatest joys an American can experience in our country is the Road Trip. The diversity in our country is never more apparent than when plowing through six states in one day. On our Dec 26th trip from Ohio to Florida, the temperature increased by 50 degrees F in one day and we got a hefty dose of local color at our pit stops. It’s also easy to witness that which unites our country on such a road trip. Highway food signs all point you to the nearest McDonald’s and you can’t drive 20 minutes without a Cracker Barrel tempting you at the next exit.

Here’s the best dose of American local-color I’ve ever seen, from a one-stop shop in upstate New York.

Phil knew we were fast approaching the Florida state line when we began seeing signs for Shoney’s and Church’s Chicken (instead of the Denny’s and KFC I’m used to up north).

Once we finally reached our destination at his parents’ lovely house on the beach, we were happy to see that they didn’t plan on feeding us takeout from Church’s, or breakfast at Shoney’s at $2.99. Over the following days, we gorged ourselves on Laurie’s lasagna, turkey, standing rib roast, broccoli casserole, zucchini bread, etc etc etc. You’ll never go hungry when Laurie’s around! We celebrated Christmas with the ever growing fam…

… and I insisted Laurie take a rest and let me cook up my famous paella for the crowd.

Paella a la Sánchez

2 pounds chicken thighs
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
4 cups short grain Spanish rice
¼ cup white wine
6 cups warm shellfish stock**
Generous pinch saffron threads
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
½ lb calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch strips
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

Mix paprika, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a thick paste. Rub paste on chicken thighs and let marinate for at least an hour.

Heat oil in a paella pan or wide, shallow skillet over medium-high heat on the largest burner of your stove. Saute the chorizo in the center of pan until browned, then remove and reserve on plate. Add chicken skin-side down and brown well on all sides. Remove chicken from pan and reserve on plate with the chorizo.

In the same pan, sauté the onions, red pepper, garlic, and parsley for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit. Fold in the rice and coat with the vegetable mixture. Stir-fry 3 to 5 minutes, until the rice is shiny and a tiny chalky kernel is visible in the center of the grains. Add wine and cook until wine is nearly evaporated. Pour in warm shellfish stock and saffron and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken and chorizo back to the pan and simmer another 10 minutes. Add the clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. Let the paella simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. If the seafood isn’t cooking quickly enough, cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes, then garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Serve paella directly from the pan with crusty bread. Buen provecho!

**if you don’t have shellfish stock on hand in your freezer, try simmering your reserved shrimp shells in 6 cups chicken broth as you’re prepping the vegetables and seafood (about ½ hour should do it).

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