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I didn’t grow up eating spa food. I don’t think anyone did, with the likely exception of Sarah Livia Brightwood, daughter of Deborah Szekely and her husband Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, founders of the legendary and inspiring Rancho La Puerta health spa in Tecate, Mexico. Sarah was raised by “health nuts” who evolved a style of healthy eating and living that continues to this day at the Ranch and at The Golden Door spa in California.

But that’s not my upbringing. I was raised by two Hoosiers, who grew up poor on Indiana farms. My Dad’s Germanic heritage defined my eating habits until I left for college: meat, potatoes and a vegetable. There were three: corn, green beans, and the dreaded and distasteful lima beans. There was a brief bad incident with canned spinach during my younger brother’s Popeye phase. Salads consisted of iceberg lettuce with sliced tomatoes. There was never an onion or garlic in our home. Needless to say, the discovery of other vegetables, like broccoli, in the dormitory cafeteria line was a revelation! Not only that, but many foods had more than one ingredient! Oh my!

Over the years I learned to cook (thanks to Fanny Farmer and many wonderful teachers) and slowly expanded my views of good food. Still, I could not really see vegetables as anything other than a necessary side dish beside the main course which was a meat, chicken or fish.

All this changed when I spent a week last December at Rancho La Puerta! For a week I ate every thing they served: all delicious and nutritious and delightful vegetarian dishes with two dinners that incorporated seafood. I exercised, hiked, played, and relaxed. Somewhere during the week, my taste buds woke up to the flavors of truly fresh food! That began my quest for spa cooking for one!

So tonight’s summer spa dinner with French influences featured only two foods that I would have eaten in my childhood: corn and sliced tomatoes. It being summer and a full day at work, I stopped by Market of Choice and got a few ready-made items, including two of their deli salads, a cheese and a French-style pate I was delighted and surprised to find.

Here is my menu:

  • Slice of Hideaway Bakery Country Bread, cut in half and toasted with olive oil under the broiler.
  • One half topped with Fava Bean Puree (see Fun with Fava Beans) with mint, thinly sliced orange bell peppers, and lemon vinaigrette.
  • The other half topped with a slice of Buche de Chevre, a round of goat cheese with a soft, edible rind, and some thinly sliced orange bell pepper strips.
  • Edamame, corn, black beans and cherry tomato deli salad with red wine vinaigrette
  • Shrimp and pasta deli salad, with far too much garlic in it; I added some lemon vinaigrette to balance it a bit.
  • A 1/2 inch slice of Pate Grand-Mere Pork & Chicken Liver pate with Armagnac, made and distributed by Les Trois Petits Cochons (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and purchased at the Market.
  • A few slices of a small tomato.
  • A very dark Cahors red wine, from Chateau de Gaudou.
  • I might have a little more of my homemade lemon sorbet later…..

Comfort food? Absolutely!