Marathon Salad

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The past week has been undoubtedly bizarre for many many people and I for one can say that between the political blindside and the fear that’s crept over us from that AND running my first full marathon on Saturday, I’m left feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

But, the good thing about having to run 26 miles after the confusion that resulted from last week’s election is that running is the most cathartic thing I know how to do. Besides focusing on breathing or the pain that the body feels, I do a lot of general thinking, in this this case 4 hours and 26 minutes of distractive, stream of consciousness thinking. It's unavoidable. And naturally while running I couldn't help, in light of the week's events, thinking about the word “running” itself, what it means, and how it applies to our lives right now.

Running of course was what I was doing. Moving my legs and my feet, hitting the pavement to try to make 26 miles go by as fast as possible. It means being considered for something, as in "in the running" or "running for president." And after that happens it can move on to mean having control over something like when you "run the show" or on a bigger scale "run the entire country." This word can be used in so many phrases like "Obama had a really good run" or "I think our new president is going to go in there running with scissors."

But in a time when we feel so confused and so hurt, when the news makes our blood run cold, we need to remember to not run away from the problems and horrors that await us. And we also shouldn't act out and run amok causing even more chaos and turmoil. Because running also means moving forward and making something continue to work, the creation of productivity. We need to hit the ground running in our efforts to support each other and causes that we believe in, to do good in this world. And even if we feel like we're running on empty, we cannot stop. It may be a morbid thought, but we are constantly technically running out of time so why not put our efforts into bringing positivity into the world and making a change while we can instead of dwelling on the facts that we cannot. We need to hold onto and run with the idea, no, the Truth, that love trumps hate. Always. I just had to look around at the marathon to see all the good that exists around us, all of the hope and dreams and the support and encouragement of friends and families, my own and others.

And when the weekend full of cathartic thinking was done, I did start to feel better and ready to stand up and fight for my justice and that of those at risk of having it taken away. So I tossed aside any pity party attitude and made myself what I have thus dubbed Marathon Salad. Why? Well, because I spent the past 2 weeks eating nothing but pasta and race day eating the entire contents of the junk food aisle plus beer and all I wanted was some greenery in my life. It’s loaded with lots of energizing protein and nutrient-dense ingredients. It’s creates a sustained sense of fullness, a necessity to anyone aiming for greatness in every way, who needs the energy for battles ahead. But I do think it would be a great meal to have the night before a long run too. And it’s hella delicious.

The idea for this salad started when I got an email for this one from Bon Appetit a while back. I love this because it’s a non-recipe, one that you make more on intuition. You squeeze a lemon over kale and rub it with your hands until it breaks down, finishing it off with olive oil salt and pepper. The rest is a “do what feels right” combination of cheese, nuts, seeds, and any extra veg you may want. I also recently got an awesome autumnal salad from Taylor Gourmet that was topped with thin Italian style breaded chicken cutlets that I loved so much I’ve been craving them for weeks. Naturally I just decided to make them for myself. This salad is a really happy marriage between the two, a playground of flavors and textures – salty, crunchy, sweet, juicy, earthy, tart, chewy – that I couldn’t get enough of. My exhausted body is thanking me already. Now onward and upward!

Marathon Salad
Makes 4 servings
Both recipes adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: Images show the salad with roasted Brussels sprouts too but I could probably do without the extra effort next time.

Salad Ingredients
2 large bunches of kale, ribs removed and washed, dried, and torn into irregular pieces
1 lemon
olive oil
2 tart apples, cored and diced
½ cup pepitas, toasted
2 big handfuls of cubed smoked aged cheddar
salt and pepper, to taste
Breaded Italian chicken cutlets, recipe follows

For the Chicken
6 small boneless skinless chicken cutlets, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
¾ cup flour
2 eggs
2 tsp. mustard powder
2 tsp. parsley flakes
¼ tsp garlic powder
1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
8 Tbs. olive oil, divided

Wash and prep all of your salad ingredients and then begin by making the chicken cutlets. In a large clean workspace, set out 4 large plates with a wide shallow bowl in the middle. Place your raw chicken in the first plate. Pat it dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Pour the flour into the second plate. In the middle bowl, whisk together the eggs, mustard powder, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper with a fork. On the fourth plate, combine the breadcrumbs and the parmesan. Leave the fifth empty.

Take one of your chicken cutlets and coat it in the plain flour. Then dunk it into the eggs. Coat all sides then lift it up to let the excess drip off. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the breadcrumbs and press the crumbs onto all sides of the chicken. Place the finished breaded cutlet onto the fifth empty plate until all of the chicken is coated.

Heat 4 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook half of the chicken for 4 minutes per side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Set aside to rest while assembling the salad.

In a large bowl, add the kale and the juice of the lemon. Use your hands to scrunch the kale, massaging it with your fingers and coating with the lemon until it is wilted and shiny. Drizzle over a few Tbs. of olive oil while tossing the kale to coat it. Add salt and pepper and give the greens one final scrunch with your handsso that the salt melts into the dressing. Add the apples, pepitas, and cheddar. Thinly slice the chicken across the grain and arrange over the salad. Top with salt and pepper as desired.