Hungry Hippos and a Sandwich

by Ginny on May 30, 2011

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Oops, I’m a day late with my usual Sunday post, but with good reason. Noah and I have had some of our favorite friends in town– Lyndsey and Pete. Lynds and I met in Big Sky back in the day and instantly hit it off as playmates with a shared passion for outdoor adventures. We bagged a few peaks, hiked the Olympic Peninsula together, and spent many a powder day “shredding the gnar” as we used to say. It was in those not-so-long-ago times that Noah and I took to calling Lyndsey “Turbo”, a still-fitting nickname for this compact and energetic wood sprite who lives life as if attached to a jet pack. She works hard, plays hard, and always has a roster of adventures planned. I don’t take it for granted having pals like her, who share a devotion to a lifetime of play. 

Turbo’s been busy in Missoula completing a week-long course to obtain her Wilderness First Responder Certificate, so she can fulfill the volunteer requirements for her local Search and Rescue Team. Her husband Pete showed up for the weekend, and we’ve been having a good time with the dogs in spite of some rainy weather. Noah and Pete and I are building a new friendship, as we have been far from Turbo’s life for the last few years, but it was clear right away that these two newlyweds make a well-matched package of fun-loving adventurists.

Last night (Sunday) we had planned to go out for dins at a favorite local eatery, but seeing as how Turbo had spent the entire day outside in the rain, participating in a mass-casualty exercise, we opted to dine Sunday Dinner Revival style, at home. I made a Thai Red Curry with Shrimp, and this incredible Banana Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting from Orangette. We talked about backcountry medicine, Western versus Eastern medicine, health care, and then politics. We licked our bowls clean and retreated to the loft as the sun set, with the tired dogs at our feet and the three of them finishing a bottle of red wine. It was all very grown-up, until… 

We have a coffee table in the loft, the underside of which is packed with games. By far, the game that has gotten the most play since we brought it home is Hungry Hippos. Pete noticed it and pulled it out from beneath the table top.

“Is this a miniature version, or do they make a bigger version of this?” 

“It probably just seemed a lot bigger the last time you played it,” I said.

“Well, let’s play,” he said, and we huddled in and set about dividing the white marbles. Since we brought the game home a few months ago, I have listened to it being played for hours by the various children in our circle of friends and family. It’s an astonishingly loud game, and the noisy plastic hammering makes me appreciate all the noise-making our parents put up with, and brace for the noise-making we are about to endure over the next eighteen years. But now here we sat, a foursome of thirty-somethings about to launch the first marbles.

“Ready….GO!” I yelled and the hippos began their noisy chomping, and suddenly we were all 10 years old again, giggling and shouting and slamming our black levers in a frenzy of marble eating hippos. There was no point in keeping score, but as soon as we figured out that the pink hippo had superior chomping action we democratically decided to rotate the game to take turns with the best hippo. Aside from that grown-up amendment it was nothing but a jubilant, juvenile explosion of silliness. Remembering this feeling of unabashed play was like an age-defying tonic. Without attaching too much expectation to the unknown personality of our son-to-be, it filled me with joy to think that we might share moments like this, that he might help us remember our own childish playfulness.

Another memory I rekindled while Turbo and Pete were in town was for one of my all-time favorite sandwiches. Filled with rotisserie roasted chicken, the sweet caramel flavor of fig jam, mushroomy brie cheese, and the kick of Dijon mustard, this sandwich, like a mid-life game of Hungry Hippos, is a delightful departure from the usual.

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Recipe : Roast Chicken, Brie, and Fig Sandwich with Asparagus "Fries"

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. I first found this cute little jar of Dalmatia Fig Spread at the natural food store where I used to cook, but I have since seen repeatedly it at big-chain grocery stores (like Safeway), so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. You can use whatever kind of bread you like, but I love making this sandwich healthier by using a sprouted-grain bread (like Ezekiel). The chewy, high-fiber texture is fantastic when grilled.

(makes 1 sammy)

  • 2 slices sprouted-grain bread
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fig jam or spread
  • 1/2 cup cooked chicken, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula or spinach, washed and dried
  • 1 ounce brie cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter, divided

Spread one slice of the bread with mustard, and one slice with fig jam. On the mustard slice layer the chicken, then the arugula, then the brie. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, to taste. Top with the remaining slice of bread.

Melt half of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Swirl pan to coat evenly. Place sandwich into pan and cook 5 minutes on one side, or until golden brown. Using a spatula, remove to a plate, add remaining dab of butter to the pan, melt and swirl. Flip the sandwich over and cook the other side 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Asparagus “Fries” with Garlic Lemon Aioli
(serves 2 or 3)

My friend Dustin made these at a dinner party and they’ve become one of my favorite simple sides. The only thing fry-like about this recipe is that a hot spear is dipped into a zingy sauce and eaten with the hands. I’m not sure what Emily Post would have to say about it, but as far as I’m concerned asparagus is finger food. It tastes better that way. Late-season asparagus (available now) has a bit more girth than the pencil thin shoots of last month, and is perfect for this recipe in that they don’t get so floppy when cooked.

  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed
  • water
  • Garlic Lemon Aioli (recipe below)

First remove the ends from the asparagus using my tried and true method: snap them off with your fingers. The asparagus will automatically break where the woody tough part ends and you will never have to gnaw through tough asparagus again.

In a pot large enough to hold the asparagus, bring 4 inches of well-salted water to a boil (salty like the sea). Reduce heat to medium and add asparagus. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the spears, 1 to 3 minutes. The desired result here is crisp-tender, not limp. Watch closely and test often. Drain asparagus, and serve hot with Garlic Lemon Aioli

Garlic Lemon Aioli

When I’m out with friends one of the menu items I often get asked to define is aioli. What is aioli (pronounced aye-oly)? Aioli is a French or Italian condiment made from an olive oil emulsion, often thickened with egg yolks and seasoned. Common flavorings are garlic and/or mustard. This is a quick cheater recipe in that it uses mayonnaise. I love it because it’s a great way to use one of my favorite healing foods: raw garlic.

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated or minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Using a garlic press, smash the cloves into a small mixing bowl. Add salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and stir until salt is dissolved. Add olive oil and mayo and stir to combine.

Recipe originally published on my previous blog, Food-G.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy May 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Yummy! I’m hungry…


Melanie June 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

I am looking forward to eating pulled pork, asparagus fries and spinach and strawberry salad today with my family. Reading your blog brought me back to when I was young and Sunday dinners were something we looked forward to every week. My mom would prepare some of the meal on Saturdays and the rest on Sunday morning. By the time we returned home from our weekly Sunday drive through Leelanau County (something I didn’t appreciate when I was young) dinner would be on the table within the hour and we were feasting. And now I am left wondering why did I abandon this treasured time? But today marks my return as I gather my family around the table for a delicious meal and some great conversations. Thanks Ginny for the reminder! P.S. I am a fellow Michigander…born and raised in Suttons Bay a little town just north of Traverse City.


Ginny June 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hi Melanie,
Thanks so much for visiting SDR and for sharing your Sunday Dinner memories. Michiganders are always welcome at this table : ) A good friend of mine here is from Suttons Bay. You can read about her in this post:

I love hearing that you’re rekindling your own Sunday Dinner tradition, and with recipe help from my blog it sounds like– yay! Please let me know how it goes. I always welcome feedback, questions, stories, what have you. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Melanie. Enjoy your Sunday Dinner!



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